Food banks prepare to feed more people
Jim Scolman photo
Volunteer delivery driver Joni Edelbrock and son Kodi load food boxes in their car for deliver to people in Monroe from the Sky Valley Food Bank. The coronavirus restrictions require food banks to adjust. A coalition of nonprofits and local organizations now deliver food each Thursday as part of a “food caravan” that sprouted in late March in Monroe to be able to continue service. When asked about her day job, Joni said,”This is my first time doing this, I run a pre-school, but there’s not much pre-school going on now.” Kodi is a freshman at Monroe High School.
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Local food banks are readying themselves for people who suddenly have less to spend on groceries because of coronavirus-related layoffs.
While money is starting to flow from unemployment checks and the upcoming federal stimulus check, the same families still are grappling with tighter budgets.
Snohomish Community Food Bank director Elizabeth Grant said her food bank is ready. “We’re here, we’re open, we’re ready to give out food,” Grant said.
Snohomish’s food stocks are strong enough right now to handle more people, she said.
Others are working to keep up with demand. All emphasize cash donations help.
COVID-19 virus risks cemented the Sky Valley Food Bank’s decision to temporarily suspend having volunteers pick up grocery store giveaways.
“We are having to buy almost all of the food we hand out right now,” administrative director Carla Stewart said by email. She added that the food bank, which serves Monroe, is finding it tough to find food to buy.
As of last week, the Snohomish food bank has seen 8 -10 new families per service, so 16-20 families per week*, Grant reported.
Grant said she predicts a wave of more people is coming in late April or early May.
The Maltby Food Bank is seeing a 10 to 20 percent increase in clients, and is expecting more, its director Natalie Oswald said.
“We are now open three days a week to keep everyone separated and to serve the new clients,” Oswald said. Customers get food loaded into their vehicles. Many new callers report they’re not working.
The Sky Valley Food Bank continues to deliver food boxes to residents each Thursday. “(Last) week we have 187 deliveries, but the number keeps growing every week,” Stewart said by email. To get on the list, call 360-794-7959.
People who can’t receive food boxes are picking up weekly food boxes from the food bank at 133 Sky River Parkway.
Additionally, the number of emergency weekend food backpacks for children in the Monroe School District has risen to 210 food packs a week, up from 78 before COVID-19.
Volunteers of America Western Washington, which has food bank service in Everett, can use food staples, including meat and milk, spokesman Cory Armstrong-Hoss said.
Need has gone up. The VOA food banks see more than 1,500 families a month, a director there shared.
During March, the trendline jumped from an average of 900 individuals a week to 1,375 seen during the last week of March.
At the VOA’s food banks on Broadway and along Casino Road, people are now given food bags from inside the warehouse. COVID-19 halted the model where people could shop on their own.
People are temporarily being kept outside the Snohomish food bank to wait in their cars — like a drive-in. You get a menu, pick out food, and volunteers from the Lions Club, Kiwanis Club and high schools return with bags of ordered food.
Home deliveries are being made within city limits on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The Snohomish food bank currently serves a floating average of around 200 families a week, or about 500 people. For comparison, during the deepest point of the Recession around 2013, at Snohomish the number was more than 300 a week.
Food banks appreciate money donations because they can buy food in bulk through suppliers.
One source food banks use is to buy food from organizations such as Seattle-based Food Lifeline. A statewide relief effort called the WA Food Fund launched recently to help three of the state’s largest food-warehouse nonprofits that sell food at steep discounts to supply hundreds of food banks.
COVID-19 concerns are why the Snohomish food bank, for one, is asking people to hold on to pantry donations until after the health crisis subsides.
The food bank coalition, which is an umbrella organization for 22 food banks,
received a $75,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Snohomish County in late March. The organization is still fundraising at www.cf-sc.org
A little more than 21,000 new unemployment cases were filed in Snohomish County during the fourth week of March and another new 21,000 cases were filed during the first week of April. This is up from 733 claims filed during the first week of March.
How to give
To support the Snohomish Community Food Bank, send money donations to P.O. Box 1364, Snohomish, WA 98291 or donate via www.snohomishfoodbank.org or call 360-568-7993.
People can support the Sky Valley Food Bank via www.svfoodbank.org or by mailing a check to P.O. Box 724, Monroe, WA, 98272. Non-perishable food can be left in a bin at the Boys & Girls Club. Its number is 360-794-7959.
To donate to the VOA, visit www.voaww.org
Armstrong-Hoss at VOA said: “Donors may also drop off diapers and food donations at the Village each Monday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon, or have diapers and food delivered to our main Everett Food Bank at 1230 Broadway, Everett, WA 98201.”
The Maltby Food Bank takes online gifts at www.maltbyfoodbank.org or checks at 21104 86th Ave SE, Snohomish, Washington, 98296. Non-perishable food can go in the donation barrel at the same address.
* - UPDATE: This story corrects the portrayal of client numbers
from Snohomish Community Food Bank
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