More families to feed

Helping Hand food bank sees 25 percent increase in demand

Most Wednesday mornings, the line outside the Mount Si Helping Hand Food Bank in North Bend stretches to the street.

It’s been a very busy season. According to food bank director Gail Gergasko, that line has been growing quickly this fall.

Helping Hand food bank has seen a big increase, 25 percent, in the number of families coming in. That number seems to rise each week.

“We’re seeing a lot of new faces,” Gergasko said — about 25 new families each week. “Almost overnight, it started happening. They just need a lot more help.”

Last year, Helping Hand served about 1,100 families. This year, that number will exceed 1,300.

The food bank asks new users how big their households are and where they are from. Staff have found that while visitors from outside the Valley seem to be decreasing, numbers from the local area are rising. Many visitors to the bank are out of jobs or have seen their work hours reduced, Gergasko said.

With the extra mouths to feed, food bank users have been very grateful.

“Food that they didn’t used to take, they’re more than happy to have anymore,” Gergasko said. “Everybody used to hate frozen carrots. Powdered milk was always taboo. Now, they’re taking them.”

Offsetting costs

People use the food bank as a way to offset other, unavoidable costs in their lives, such as paying the rent.

Valley resident Antonio Suacedo’s weekly box of food helps offset his power bill.

The shaky economy has hurt some people, Saucedo said, adding that the food bank has definitely helped him.

“There’s a lot of people out of work,” said North Bend resident Jim Hood, a senior citizen who takes home a box of staples every week to share with his wife. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

“They do good work here,” he added.

“I would be very hungry if they weren’t here,” said Karolyn Pearson of North Bend, as she carried a box of produce, fruit and bread out to her car. Medically disabled, Pearson shares food with her boyfriend Rudy. She said she wishes there were more donations, and that she could help give, too.

The food bank provides basic staples, such as bread, produce, canned vegetables and soups.

“Hopefully, we’re going to have all the basic things that everybody needs for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

The food bank is already well stocked up on cranberries and pumpkin, but it still needs turkey, ham, stuffing and au gratin potatoes to provide holiday meals for Valley residents.

The bank also needs traditional non-perishables.

“We’re pretty low on everything,” Gergasko said.

Locally, Gergaslo said more people are holding food drives and making donations.

1,400 pounds of food just came in from the Key Club at the new Twin Falls Middle School. Mount Si Golf Course has done a drive, and Mount Si High School is starting up its food bowl soon.

The food bank is supported by the cities of North Bend and Snoqualmie, churches and individuals and federal grant funding. Funding is expected to stay constant over the near term, Gergasko said.

Mount Si Helping Hand food bank accepts cash donations to help supplement food donations.

Contact the Mount Si Helping Hand Food Bank at (425) 888-0096.