WARRENTON -?The Clatsop Community Action Regional Food Bank is open and ready to serve 36 agencies in the county, in-cluding food pantries, women's shelters and Meals on Wheels programs.

Hundreds of people gathered Friday for a ribbon cutting and tour at the new distribution center on Chokeberry Avenue, including many city and state officials. Many more came for the Saturday open house event.

"This is some solid good news and this is really wonderful," said U.S. Rep. David Wu. "I think we just needed our mojo back, needed our confidence back, and this is good news."

George Sabol, executive director of Clatsop Community Action, thanked everyone for coming to the ceremony on the bright and sunny day, prior to the storm. He recognized those who made the food bank possible, including Martin Nygaard and Steve Olstedt, who donated the acre of land - an estimated $300,000 value.

The food bank is still raising funds to pay off the facility and has another $400,000 to raise.

"Our mission is to help people meet housing, food, and other basic needs. Food is a huge part of those basic needs so we're here to celebrate and we are here to dedicate this building to the cause of fighting hunger in Clatsop County," Sabol said.

Last year, the food bank distributed more than 1 million pounds of emergency food to low-income residents while operating out of a borderline-dilapidated building in Astoria near where the 2010 Pacific Northwest Brew Cup was held near the old train station. All proceeds from the Brew Cup went to the new food bank. The new building has the ability to freeze 10 times more food and repack bulk foods. It also could serve as an emergency shelter in the future in case of an event like the storm of 2007, said Sabol.

Gil Gramson, mayor of Warrenton, held the scissors at the ribbon cutting. The city of Warrenton sponsored the project on the grant proposal where Clatsop Community Action was granted $472,000.

Sabol thanked all of the city staff and commission members.

"We also had a lot of foundations that gave us grants. Grants are a wonderful thing because there are no strings attached," Sabol said. Clatsop Community Action Regional Food Bank, one of 20 regional food banks in Oregon, received $300,000 of funding from foundation grants alone.

"We are unique in the United States. Only in Oregon, with our partners in Southwest Washington, does our entire network work together. We don't have turf. We look for ways to share with each other and that's what makes us strong," said Janeen Wadsworth, Oregon Food Bank chief operating officer. "This is fantastic."

Clatsop County community members donated more than $100,000 to make the food bank happen.

"I'm thrilled so many turned out but I expected it because this community has done this anytime we've done anything. They've given us $100,000 in a recession and that's amazing. There are only 37,000 people in this community so that's digging deep in your pockets when 25 percent of those are in poverty level," Sabol said after the ceremony Friday. "It's absolutely amazing. It shows the support this community has for us. I'm just hoping we can keep that up to pay off the building to get more food out to people."

Sen. Betsy Johnson was very excited about the food bank, Sabol said. She was not there Friday but visited Saturday for a public open house. Sen. Ron Wyden sent his regrets for not being able to make the grand opening but wrote a letter that Sabol read to the crowd.

"The economic downturn and rising prices on many basic goods mean that more and more Oregonians are turning to food banks for help. With the demand skyrocketing, we need to get better at collecting and distributing food which is why this new building is so important," Wyden wrote. "It is a strong, smartly-built place that will welcome those whose needs are not being met."

State Legislature candidate Lew Barnes, who is running against incumbent Deborah Boone, was unable to make the event but donated more than 60 pounds of meat to the food bank Friday morning. Candidate Bob Horning, who is running against Johnson, attended Friday's ceremony.

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