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Local food pantries still seek donations
Even with Thanksgiving around the corner, local food banks are still looking for donations.
Food pantries like Bremerton Foodline and Central Kitsap Food Bank are asking the community to bring in a variety of holiday dinner staples to make sure the needy have food.Turkey, ham and all the fixins' are in high demand and make up the holiday meals that are served and bagged for families needing a little extra help.
"We could always use more turkeys," said Hoyt Burrows, Central Kitsap Food Bank executive director. The pantry always accepts canned fruits and vegetables as well, he said, especially this time of year.
Burrows said the food bank already has 542 families that will be served at the end of the month. The families signed up weeks prior to the holiday to ensure a food basket had their name on it.
"That's the most we've ever had," he said of the pre-registered families.
A local church is hosting a food drive for the bank, and Burrows is constantly reminded of the generosity of the community when he sees the donations coming in. Although the Thanksgiving baskets are mostly stocked, Burrows and his volunteers are already looking ahead to Christmas. That's how it is with a hungry community, planning ahead is a necessity.
"Without the generosity of this community, we couldn't do what we do," he said. "And there would be a lot of people who would go without."
The Bremerton Foodline will also provide groceries for families to take home and create their own holiday meal. Families will receive all the makings of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The baskets for Thanksgiving have already been pre-reserved by families, so new families cannot receive baskets.
However, new clients will be referred to free holiday prepared meals around the city. New clients are also encouraged to come back to sign up for Christmas baskets in the first two weeks of December.
According to Bremerton Foodline Executive Director Patti Peterson, the items have been gathered over the last 10 weeks, but donations from local drives are helping to fill gaps of what hasn't been brought in.
"Donations have been low this year with the economic uncertainties, but are increasing with traditional holiday-themed food drives and local emphasis programs like “Send Hunger Packing”. It is the fear and uncertainty of the last few months coupled with business/job stagnation that makes some of our former donors into clients and some donors consider carefully about how much they can afford to help with," said Peterson. "I can say that I am buying more routine food supplies than I have ever done to keep those supplies in place for day-to-day operations."
Client families applied three weeks in advance for the November food basket, and are given a selected date to pick up their holiday meal. This year, distribution dates are set for Nov. 24, 25 and 26. Peterson said the pantry general has around 150 volunteers to assist families in getting their food. The pantry will also provide referrals for any holiday meal services for those unable to cook.
The most-needed items at the facility are canned fruits and dessert mixes. Donated items help free up the food bank funds to be used elsewhere, and the items that aren't used in the Thanksgiving meals go into Christmas baskets for client families.
This year alone, the Bremerton Foodline volunteers will serve 850 households. Around Christmas, between 750 and 800 households will need meals.
Baskets will be packaged on Nov. 23, where a variety of groups including Kiwanis, Bremerton High School students, local scouts and Diamond Dusters help piece together the baskets. Anyone interested in volunteering may call the Bremerton Foodline office to signup.
Although donations have been on the rather low side from grocers, Peterson said volunteers and other organizations step it up. A local church's daycare children collected pennies which were matched by the congregation---with both pounds of food and more pennies. Patrons and staff members at the Big Apple diner contributed more than $350 over a period of six weeks. And Bremerton High School students are working a food drive in hopes to deliver in a line that stretches from the high school to the pantry door as a way to raise awareness of hunger issues.
"This is a time and place of commitment to our community that makes each heart happy," said Peterson. "Each person in our community can make a difference."
Some pantries, on the other hand, have been fortunate.
James Baker, corps officer for Bremerton Salvation Army, said their location in particular is well taken care of for this holiday season.
"Fortunately, we do not need to appeal for food donations for Thanksgiving because a very generous benefactor has offered to provide everything so that 200 families can enjoy a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner," he said. "We are not accepting any more sign-ups for Thanksgiving baskets."
The Thanksgiving dinner will be on Nov. 28 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
During Christmastime, the location will also provide toy baskets, dinner and Christmas food.
"We serve all who come in here. We invite everyone to eat," said Sheryl Piercy, Bremerton Salvation Army social service director.
In 2012, the food bank served 40,528 meals. During holiday meals, between 200 and 300 came in to eat, she said. With the weather getting colder, Piercy said the bank is preparing for more families to come forth.
This year, the Bremerton Salvation Army will be partnering with Kitsap Rescue Mission, a homeless outreach program to serve a greater capacity.
As for needs throughout the year, Piercy said that any food is welcome. Fruits and vegetables are in particularly high demand due to a recent launch of a nutritional program at the location. Because many visitors come in twice a day, the food bank volunteers and employees are trying to serve a balanced meal, especially since fruits and vegetables are so expensive.
"People ask (what we need), and I'm like, 'Everything. We need everything,'" she said.
Have goods to donate?
Bremerton Salvation Army
832 6th St., Bremerton 360-373-5550
1600 12th St., Bremerton
Central Kitsap Food Bank
3790 Anderson Hill Rd., Silverdale