Terri Langley takes a deep breath and then hoists a huge box loaded with groceries over the threshold of the Mount Si Helping Hands Food Bank. With another effort, she pushes the box onto the sidewalk, then goes back inside for more. It’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and Langley is looking forward to making a holiday meal for her family of four.
Langley has been coming here for six months, since she moved to the area. She has been unable to find work, but is grateful to have found the food bank. “This is a beautiful place that helps keep us all fed,” she says.
A few minutes later, a young couple comes out, arms loaded with provisions. They both say the food bank has really helped them out. The young man was born in North Bend. Next is an older couple, a mother with her pre-school-aged daughter, and two men clearly shopping for a large family. They are not only of all ages, but also from a variety of ethnicities and circumstances.
In an average week, the North Bend-based food bank serves about 310 families, says manager Krista Holmberg. In the weeks leading up to the holidays, the number has been closer to 400.
Increased demand has been a common trend at Valley food banks. At its last distribution in November, Fall City’s Community Food Pantry served 89 families, the most the pantry has seen since it opened in May, 2007. Pantry Board co-chairperson Richard Terbrueggen says the pantry has helped at least 200 different families in the Valley this year.
At the Adra P. Berry Memorial Food Bank in Preston, “We’ve gone from an average of about 35 families to nearly 50 families a week in the last six months,” said the Rev. Roy Peacock.
The need is not just prevalent around the holidays, though.
“It’s been steadily increasing over the last two years,” says Mount Si food bank director Heidi Dukich.
“We always have new families coming in,” agrees Terbrueggen.
Meanwhile, donations haven’t kept the same pace. Carnation’s Snoqualmie Tribe Food Bank serves about 200 families a week, and according to volunteer Fred Vosk, the bank used to be able to meet its own needs in abundance, but “not so much in the last five years.”
“We’d send our overload to other food banks, Mount Si in North Bend, Holy Innocents in Duvall, and a couple of battered women’s shelters,” he said. They still do, but it’s not as much as it used to be.
Each food bank is supported differently, but all of them need private donations to continue their service. Mount Si, Fall City, and the Hopelink food bank in Carnation are all 501(c)(3) non-profits, making any donations to them tax-deductible. Mount Si, Hopelink, and Preston also receive some food from Northwest Harvest and Food Lifeline. The Fall City pantry applied for assistance from Northwest Harvest and Food Lifeline, Terbrueggen said, but was not accepted into the program because there are so many food pantries in need right now.
The Snoqualmie Tribe provides the food bank with the facility and transportation. For all its other needs, the food bank relies entirely on private donations.
Although the economic pinch is affecting all of the food banks, none of them have fundamentally changed the way they operate. There are no income-based eligibility requirements at Mount Si, Fall City, Preston, or the Snoqualmie Tribe food banks; Hopelink accepts Valley residents whose income is 185 percent of federal poverty level or less.
The only requirement at most food banks is that the clients must live in the Valley.
“We like to support our community, so we don’t qualify anyone based on their income, but they do need to live in the Valley,” explained Dukich. However, no one is turned away without food, and Mount Si works hard to connect clients with the resources they need. Hopelink also offers a range of assistance in Carnation.
The Snoqualmie Tribe Food Bank is unusual in that it has no residency requirement.
“We feed anyone who comes in the door,” says Vosk.
• Mount Si Helping Hands Food Bank distributes food and accepts donations every Wednesday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the North Bend Community Church, 126 E Third St. in North Bend. For information about volunteering, call (425) 888-0096, or visit www.mtsifoodbank.org.
• Fall City Community Food Pantry is housed in the Fall City United Methodist Church 4326 337th Place S.E., with distributions on the first and third Wednesday of each month, from noon to 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The all non-perishable pantry lists its needs on its website (www.fallcityumc.org/foodpantry.html) but is in particular need of monetary donations right now. To volunteer, contact Richard Terbruedggen, (425) 222-6655, or Nancy White, (425) 222-4895.
• Adra P. Berry Memorial Food Bank is open Thursdays from 11 a.m. to noon, in the lower parking lot of the Raging River Community Church, 31104 SE 86th Street, Preston. Donations are accepted during food bank hours or by appointment. Call (425) 222-5573 to make a donation. To volunteer, contact Gary Weisser, (425) 221-8545.
• The Snoqualmie Tribe Food Bank is open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and accepts donations during open hours. For more information, or to volunteer, contact food bank manager Fred Vosk, (206) 949-2310.
• Hopelink’s Food Bank has distributions on the first and third Thursday of each month from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and on the second and fourth Wednesdays from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. Donations can be made during between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. To learn more about volunteering, visit the Hopelink website, www.hope-link.org/take_action/volunteer.