Central Kitsap Food Bank facing critical shortage

The Central Kitsap Food Bank is in a famine.

Cash and food donations are down, and the number of families the agency is serving is up.

Food Lifeline, a Shoreline-based food bank distribution center, is in the same boat — it has been unable to obtain the consumables it normally supplies to food banks for 11 cents per pound.

“Virtually everything on the shelves we’ve had to buy ourselves (at higher prices). Our usual sources have dried up,” said Christine Bolinger, the executive director of the Central Kitsap Food Bank.

In September, Bolinger had to buy $7,000 worth of food — a record. Last September the agency spent just $3,500 for food, and that included several hundred Thanksgiving turkeys.

Bolinger cites a number of reasons for the slump. Instead of donating to the food bank, many people have chosen to donate money to the victims of the terrorist attacks, “which is understandable considering the circumstances,” Bolinger said. In addition, schools — which usually have begun food drives by now — have been focused on the attack.

There also has been an increase in the number of tertiary outlets — or grocery outlets — where stores can sell surplus food instead of donating it, Bolinger said.

A decline in economic prosperity has exacerbated the problem, and the food bank has been serving an average of two new families a day.

“There are more people than usual,” Bolinger said. “It’s been happening over the year.”

The Central Kitsap Food Bank rents a storage unit to house excess food, but Bolinger said it is all but cleaned out.

South Kitsap’s food bank, Helpline, is suffering a similar fate.

“It’s not like it was,” said Joe Edwards, executive director of the South Kitsap Helpline. “It’s almost a day-to-day thing, It’s been really bad here in the last month.”

Edwards said Helpline has been serving an average of 50 new families a month.

“The economy has been slow this year,” he said. “It’s not as good as everyone would like to think.”

Edwards and Bolinger both pointed out that many food bank patrons have jobs, but Bolinger said the minimum wage is not enough to provide for a family.

“I’ve got one lady who comes in who has three jobs, but she has kids to feed,” Bolinger said.

It is normal for donations to drop during the summer, said Linda Nageotte, the executive director of Food Lifeline. But it is a particularly bad time because many free breakfast and lunch programs offered through public schools are discontinued, and parents have to come up with more food for children.

“Summer is when these families especially need help,” Nageotte said.

High-protein products like peanut butter, chili, tuna and other meat products are in particularly short supply, Bolinger said.

How to help

To donate, bring food to the Central Kitsap Food Bank office at 3790 Anderson Hill Road between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information on becoming a food bank volunteer, call 692-9818.

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