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Food bank lines don’t shrink in summer heat

Tricia Vantino, left, and Taryn Powers put together snack packs at the Central Kitsap Food Bank. - Leslie Kelly
Tricia Vantino, left, and Taryn Powers put together snack packs at the Central Kitsap Food Bank.
— image credit: Leslie Kelly

Summer may be the time for carefree days in the sun and taking enjoyable vacations.But for those who run area food banks, there's no vacationm from their job.

"There's always a need," said Patti Peterson, executive director of the Bremerton Foodline. "This summer's no different.

Peterson, who has been affiliated with Bremerton Foodline for more than a dozen years, said this year in June, needs were greater than a year ago in June. And donations were down.

"There's a number of causes," she said. "But sequestration is definitely one of them."

Peterson said that the food bank is still getting donations, but the impact of sequestration had seen donations, both financial and food, drop off.

"The federal payroll is the most significant income source in this area," she said. "When that gets cut, it affects us. Instead of someone giving us 10 items in a food drive, they're only able to give us five because they've lost confidence in the local economy. They don't know what's down the road for them. So they're cautious."

While she's not seen an increase in federal or sequestered employees using the food bank, she has seen other things in the local economy increase their client base."Anytime a business closes, that's bad news," she said.

"Take the Sizzler (steakhouse on Wheaton Way). Those employees may get unemployment eventually, but that will be used to pay their rent and bills. They will still need help with food."

And another thing affecting their food bank's growing need is that people are relocating to Bremerton, thinking there are jobs.

"I had a family in the other day who moved here from Texas because they heard there were jobs here," she said. "People have that impression, but it's not the case."

In June, Bremerton Foodline served 1,325 baskets of food, equating to 3,665 individuals. Families and individuals who have signed up with the food bank can get help once a month. Allocations are given based on the number of people in the family. If they need more help than that, they are referred to other food programs in the area.

In total, the food bank was open 20 days and handed out 55,990 pounds of food. During that same time 85 volunteers put in 1,295 hours in June, to keep food on the shelves at the food bank, shop with clients and sort products.

As do most food banks in this area, Bremerton Foodline gets food from local food drives, and from food bank food distributors such as Food Lifeline and Northwest Harvest. Because those places can purchase food directly from wholesalers and in massive quantities, food can be purchased at a reduced cost. Still, local food banks pay for that food and sometimes for the cost to have the food delivered.

But as Peterson points out, in buying in quantities, a box of cereal can cost 98 cents, rather than $1.50 which would be the price at a outlet grocery store.

And that jar of peanut butter can be purchased for $1.60 by buying a case of them at $19.90.

Even with that, the food bank is having a hard time keeping up with the summertime need.

Some of that is because those students who would normally be getting free or reduced school breakfast and lunch programs, don't have that resource in the summer, Peterson said.While there are some community feeding programs where students can go and get pre-made lunches, it doesn't meet all the need.

Bremerton Foodline was anticipating some grants that would help pay for "back pack" programs to feed children and teens this summer, but that didn't happen. They have, however, created their own "bag" program with the funds and food that they have available.

Once a month each family can get an extra bag of food per every two children, which includes items like peanut butter, protein snack bars, macaroni and cheese and other canned foods."That helps meet some of the summer need," Peterson said.

At the Central Kitsap Food Bank, the need has continued to grow, said director Hoyt Burrows. But, he said, the food bank has been able to keep up with it.

"Our donor base in Silverdale has been pretty steady," he said. "We've seen more need, partly because there is no school breakfast or lunch programs in the summer. But we've been lucky. Our donations are keeping up."

In June, the Central Kitsap Food Bank served 621 households, or 2,052 individuals. About 49,000 pounds of food was distributed and 46,430 pounds of food was received either through food drives or through purchases from Food Lifeline and Northwest Harvest.

During June, 44 volunteers put in 907 hours stocking shelves, cleaning, repacking bulk foods and helping clients shop at the food bank.

Burrows, who formerly was director at Bremerton Foodline, said that the need in Central Kitsap is less partly because the standard of living in Central Kitsap is somewhat better.

"That's not to say we don't have people who live here that need us," he said. "It's just a different population than you see in central and east Bremerton."

At the Central Kitsap Food Bank, clients register and can get food once a month. But he said, he sees about 25 percent of their clients needing help two and sometimes three times a month.

"We don't ever turn anyone away," he said. "And because it's summer and the kids are home all day without school breakfast and lunch programs, our need has increased."

There isn't a back pack or bag program at the Central Kitsap food bank, but families that need extra food because children are out of school, can express that and can get more food, he said.

"Our donors are very generous and because of that, we have had enough to meet the need," he said.

Summertime, too, means that clients at either food bank can take advantage of local produce. Both directors said local gardeners have been bringing in extra lettuce, beans and tomatoes from their gardens.

And at Bremerton Foodline, gardens outside the food bank that are tended to by staff and volunteers, have helped supply fresh vegetables and fruit for clients.

Both food banks can always use financial donations and food donations and volunteers, Peterson and Burrows said.

In Bremerton, Peterson said she'd like to see local churches and community groups do some food drives and think about ending food waste.

"We had a church that had an event and called us afterward telling us they had extra sandwiches and did we want them," Peterson said. "Because they had been prepared by people with food handlers cards, we could take them. So we handed out sandwiches to our clients for a couple of days."

She could also use more volunteers.

"Right now some of staff members' kids are coming to work just so we can man the front desk," she said. "We can always use more help."

At the Central Kitsap Food Bank, Burrows said he's hoping that people who want to help will realize that $10 a month can make a difference.

"It may not seem like a lot," he said. "But over a year, it adds up."

Here's the items that the food banks have on their wish lists:

Cold and hot cereals, boxed meals like Hamburger Helper, canned fruits and vegetables, peanut butter and jelly, canned meats such as chicken, tuna and SPAM, powered beverages, individual snack items, toothpaste, toothbrushes, bar soap, shampoo, laundry detergents, disposable diapers, pet food for dogs and cats, and cat litter.

Any fresh vegetables or fruits from orchards and gardens also is appreciated.

Bremerton Foodline is at 1600 12th St., in Bremerton and at www.bremertonfoodline.org. or call 360-479-6188.

Central Kitsap Food bank is at 3790 Anderson Hill Road in Silverdale and at www.ckfoodbank.org or call 360-692-9818.

Both food banks are open weekdays 10 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.

 

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