Snoqualmie Tribe's food bank faces uncertain future

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CARNATION - Snoqualmie Tribe Vice Chair Mary Ann Hinzman said her mother had a food bank before anyone even thought of it.

Growing up during the Great Depression, Hinzman's mother caught fish and packed dry food into cans. Hinzman's mother gave away whatever she could and kept the rest in a trunk to give away later.

"I called it 'Mother's Trunk,'" she said.

It is that same spirit that has driven Hinzman to keep the Snoqualmie Tribe food bank open and why she is asking the Valley for a little help to keep it going during these tough economic times.

Hinzman volunteered at the Northshore Food Bank in Bothell in the 1970s and often visited families in the Valley. She realized the need for a local food bank and pushed the Tribe to form a nonprofit group to organize one. The first food bank, which opened in 1979, was located in a basement in Redmond and served a large population of poor Asians in the area. When it moved to Duvall, the food bank served 65 people on the first day, despite a driving snow storm.

"There is such a need in the Valley," she said.

Since then, the food bank has been a consistent but struggling entity. As the Snoqualmie Tribe has established itself, its offices have moved to different locations throughout the Eastside and so has the food bank. There was one two-week period where Hinzman moved the food bank three times. A school food drive here and a check from a charity there helped Hinzman and the bank inch along, but recent financial struggles could find the service homeless in a few weeks.

Unlike other food banks, the Snoqualmie Tribe's does not turn anyone away based on a coverage area and Hinzman said a vast majority of the patrons are not Tribal members. It is an important food bank Hinzman said. She would often watch some people stand in the cold for hours at a certain food bank, only to be turned away because they didn't have a local identification.

"I'll never forget the look on their faces," she said. "I said I would never do that."

Although the Tribe is waiting for approval to build a casino in Snoqualmie that should give it a financial boost, Hinzman said the Tribe is not an affluent organization. Beyond the little money it gets from charitable organizations and donors, the food bank is on its own.

"People think since we are a recognized Tribe, we have all this money," Hinzman said. "That is not true."

The problem is confounded by the season, as well. The holidays are over. People tend to forget about giving outside of the holidays and the Snoqualmie Tribe food bank found itself homeless after being based in Fall City. The city of Carnation donated some space at a building it owns on Entwistle Street, but the food bank can't stay there much longer.

Hinzman would like to move the food bank back to Fall City, where she said most of the food bank's patrons reside. North Bend has the only food bank in the Upper Valley, so a location in Preston or Snoqualmie would do as well.

"We can't afford much," Hinzman said. "We got enough money for about six months rent and electricity."

Even though times are tough for the food bank, Hinzman is optimistic about what she can eventually do. In addition to establishing the food bank, she would like to open a shelter for the homeless, another problem of poverty that Hinzman has been battling.

It is a discouraging time, but Hinzman believes this is the work she is meant to do. While she is not dealing with much, whatever she has she wants to go to those who need it the most.

"My mother said that if I ever had $5 in my pocket, make sure I give away half if someone asks for it," she said.

To contact the Snoqualmie Tribe about its food bank, call Mary Ann Hinzman at (435) 471-3190 or Matt Mattson at (425) 333-6551.

Ben Cape can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at,

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