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Need still rising at Valley food bank

Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record Iris Giulian, a North Bend resident and volunteer at the Mount Si Helping Hand Food Bank, packs sweets for clients during distribution day, Wednesday, Nov. 1. Demand for the North Bend food bank has doubled in the past year. - Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record Iris Giulian, a North Bend resident and volunteer at the Mount Si Helping Hand Food Bank, packs sweets for clients during distribution day, Wednesday, Nov. 1. Demand for the North Bend food bank has doubled in the past year.
— image credit: Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record

For the second autumn in a row, demand is rising at the Snoqualmie Valley’s food bank.

Hundreds more families are coming to the Mount Si Helping Hand Food Bank in North Bend. Director Greg Schatzlein counts about 350 heads of households, representing roughly 1,200 people, visiting the food bank each week. That’s roughly double the number of clients last fall, and a 125 percent increase from 2007.

“We never anticipated it would grow up as quickly as it has,” Schatzlein said.

There’s no sign that growth trends at the local food bank are turning around.

“I’d like to think that it’s peaking, but there’s nothing showing me that’s what’s happening,” Schatzlein said.

Food bank staff and volunteers have noticed increased traffic at all levels.

“It’s definitely picked up,” said retiree Treva Rainey of Snoqualmie. The fixed-income senior relies on Helping Hand for staples including bread and canned goods, and also occasionally picks up pet food for her animals.

“Groceries are so expensive,” Rainey said. “A lot of people use it.”

Helping Hand food bank gives out about a million dollars worth of food each week. Some good news, Schatzlein said, is that the food bank has been successful in finding funding partners in local cities and groups. Food donations come in daily from the North Bend QFC, Safeway and Costco. Helping Hand leverages its dollars to buy the remainder from wholesalers such as Northwest Harvest.

There is a paid staff of three, including two part-time employees, and rent is free at North Bend Community Church. About seventy percent of revenues are spent on food.

Helping Hand expanded its building by nearly a third last year.

“It’s very good that we did,” Schatzlein said. “We wouldn’t be able to get by today without it.”

Needing help

The food bank serves both a changing population and a core group. Longterm clients include retired or disabled residents.

The typical food bank user isn’t homeless or jobless. Oftentimes, food bank users are working poor or people who have been overwhelmed by medical bills or the cost of living in the Eastside.

Clients must be from the Valley, but Helping Hand staff don’t ask about their income levels.

“We don’t want to put ourselves in the place to judge whether they are needy or not,” Schatzlein said.

“We feel this is a hard place for people to come because of their egos, not wanting to rely on people. We try to treat them well as clients — we’re here to serve them.”

Rainey thanked volunteers and urged others to donate. She said needy residents shouldn’t shy from using the food bank.

“They’re nice, friendly people,” Rainey said.

“Everybody’s friendly, always willing to help out,” said volunteer Dion Rich of North Bend.

And although he’s noticed more families having to use the food bank, “there are always smiles on people’s faces.”

• Learn more or donate to the Mount Si Helping Hand Food Bank online at mtsifoodbank.org or call (425) 888-0096. The food bank is located at 126 E. Third St., North Bend. Contributions can be send to the Mount Si Helping Hand Food Bank, P.O. Box 2464, North Bend, WA, 98045.

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