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Community Spotlight: Shooting the breeze with ‘Mr. Food Bank’

Hoyt Burrows has been the executive director of the Central Kitsap Food Bank since 2006.  - Photo by Rachel Brant
Hoyt Burrows has been the executive director of the Central Kitsap Food Bank since 2006.
— image credit: Photo by Rachel Brant

By RACHEL BRANT

Staff writer

Hoyt Burrows knows his way around a food bank. The Central Kitsap Food Bank executive director spent nine years at the Bremerton Food Line before taking over the CK Food Bank in 2006. The retired Navy submariner has lived in Brownsville for more than 30 years, but spends most of his time at the food bank in Silverdale keeping things in order.

We recently stopped by the CK Food Bank and chatted with “Mr. Food Bank” about his life and the ins and outs of the food bank business.

Question: What is your favorite part of Silverdale?

Answer: The people are so kind and friendly and generous. I also enjoy coming down Ridgetop (Blvd.) and seeing the Olympics. The water views aren’t bad either. Every time you have a water view it’s nothing short of spectacular.

Q: Wife, kids?

A: I have my wife Sandra, daughter Kelly, son-in-law Craig, and a 17-year-old granddaughter Alyssa, who attends Klahowya (Secondary School). My daughter was in the first graduating class at Olympic High School.

Q: What did you do in the military?

A: I was a submarine electrician. I spent 21 years in the Navy. I lived in California, Connecticut, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Guam, Italy and Bremerton.

Q: What made you move from the Bremerton Food Line to the CK Food Bank?

A: I did non-nuclear testing at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for 12 years and after I retired from the shipyard in 1997 that’s when I went to work for Bremerton Food Line. I was going to retire in 2006, I mean really retire, but at the same time the director here retired and they asked if I would help out temporarily. It worked out and I’ve been here since Sept. 2006.

Q: How many families use the CK Food Bank?

A: In January, we fed 390 households which equates to more than 1,200 individuals. Last January, we fed 348 households, which shows an increase of 11 percent. In January, we handed out 32,587 pounds of food. For 2007, we handed out right around 386,478 pounds of food.

Q: What are the most popular items people donate to the food bank?

A: Most people donate canned food, non-perishable food, but we’re always in need of sugar, diapers, hygiene products, tuna fish, peanut butter, juices, crackers, high-cost items. We can accept perishable products because we have refrigerators and freezers to handle that stuff.

Q: What is your first memory of Silverdale?

A: I came here when I was with the Navy on active duty and I just remember what a friendly community this was. I got invited to coach basketball, I was never invited to coach at other towns. My first memory is particularly how accepting people were of the military.

Q: Do you have a favorite hobby?

A: I like to fish, but I don’t do enough. I like to garden, rhododendrons are my favorite to deal with because they are low maintenance. I’m going to start myself up a new hobby soon. I am a member of the Olympic Vintage Auto Club and the MGT Register. I have a 1951 MG TD. I’ve always had sports cars, but not this model so I thought I’d give it a try. We’re just waiting for nice weather to ride in it.

Q: What do you like the most about your job?

A: I think the thing I really enjoy the most is being able to help folks with financial problems especially elderly folks, I love working with them. I love just providing a service to the community.

Q: What organizations are you involved with?

A: The Kitsap County Food Bank Coalition, I’m the representative from Kitsap County to the Washington Food Bank Coalition. I’m the representative for what they call the TEFAP Advisory Committee, The Emergency Food Assistance Program and I’m a member of Kitsap Community Resources. I’m also the director for the Community Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) in Kitsap County. We’re authorized to serve more than 500 people in Kitsap County and that’s a program that I’m particularly proud of. We worked for years to get it expanded up here.

Q: In your life, have you ever needed help from a food bank?

A: You’re going to make me cry. When we (Sandra and I) were first married we struggled and back in those days there were no food banks in our area, but we managed to make it, we managed to survive.

Q: Are you for or against Silverdale incorporation?

A: I can see positive aspects of both sides and actually where I live would remain in the unincorporated part. I’m kind of up in the air, it doesn’t matter one way or another.

Q: Besides the holidays, what other times of year is the food bank in more need than usual?

A: We supply Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to folks, but we don’t do special meals for the rest of the holidays. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas last year we fed more than 695 households. It was about 11,712 pounds of food at Thanksgiving and 14,320 pounds at Christmas. It’s about 26,000 pounds of food if you add them together. That’s a traditional dinner, turkey, dressing, the whole nine yards.

Q: Does the food bank have enough volunteers?

A: We have volunteers, but we always need more volunteers. We’d love people to call us and volunteer. We try to coordinate it where they have something to do because if they don’t have anything to do they don’t come back. We’re always open to talking to people about volunteering. We have a wonderful group of volunteers. They are dedicated to helping other folks, dependable, friendly. These guys are the best.

Q: What is one thing you want to try in your lifetime?

A: Let’s see, I’ve been deep in the ocean, I’ve been high in the sky. I don’t want to climb mountains and I learned how to slollum ski when I was 51 years old. The only thing I can think of right now is to make a long trip in my new, little car.

Q: What is the strangest item(s) people have donated to the food bank?

A: We’ve gotten little bottles of alcohol. I got three cans of beer at a donation one time. We take them, but we don’t pass them on. Once in a while you’ll get one glove, we have a man who makes wooden toys and a group who knits hats. We had a donation of hot dogs from a group. That doesn’t sound weird except they were labeled in Russian.

Q: What’s the biggest misconception about food banks?

A: The biggest misconception about foods banks is that the people who use food banks are lazy and don’t want to work. They are people who have worked very hard in their lives or have injuries or an illness that prevents them from working. We have a lot of folks who are retired and their retirement incomes can’t keep up with inflation today. With December’s flood, we also see people who lost everything they had in it or other natural disasters. My vision would be to see everyone doing well enough, particularly in the state, but also the nation, that food banks aren’t needed. That’s a vision I know will never happen, though.

Q: What one person or persons have made the biggest impression on your life?

A: My grandfather was probably one of the biggest influences on my life. He’s the one that had the biggest impact on my life. A Navy chief I worked for made a big impression and the first master chief of the Navy I ever worked for influenced me. Those three made a big impression on me.

Q: How long do you hope to stay with the CK Food Bank?

A: Well, I plan on probably looking to retire sometime in early 2009. I find it to be hard work, but very gratifying and fulfilling.

Q: If you could set only one goal for the food bank, what would it be?

A: We’re embarking on a building campaign to build or renovate a new building so we could own the building we work in. We want to be able to provide more services, better service and have more space. We anticipate that to be a two- to three-year process of finding a place. I want to make this happen before I quit. Whether we find a building or build a building, that’s what our goal is.

• Editor’s Note: Community Spotlight is a weekly Q & A feature on a member of the community that appears Wednesdays in the CK Reporter. To nominate someone who lives or works in the CK area who you think deserves to be featured, call (360) 308-9161 or e-mail editor@centralkitsapreporter.com. All submitted nominations are drawn at random.

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