Snohomish County’s food banks have two messages for the public:
• They remain in operation and are available for those in need of food assistance.
• They’ll take whatever help they can get.
Food banks are on the front lines of dealing with the consequences of efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. They’re gearing up for an increase in demand as the public feels the financial fallout. They’re having to change their methods of distribution to abide by social-distancing requirements. And they’re seeking aid, whether that’s in the form of donations or volunteers.
“When I speak to other directors, everyone’s hair is on fire,” said Marysville Community Food Bank director Dell Deierling. “We’re all trying to understand the impact of this. There’s still a lot of uncertainty in food banks. What’s my supply going to be like? What are demands going to look like? What do my resources look like in terms of volunteers? Then we’re putting in place best practices to protect the community, both the folks who come in the doors and those coming out to help.
“But these are the sacrifices we all have to make to get over this and get back to normalcy.”
Diana Rose directs traffic Tuesday afternoon at Marysville Community Food Bank. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
The Snohomish County Food Bank Coalition operates 20 food banks around the county, and most are up and running. Volunteers of America, which operates three food banks in Everett, has consolidated to one location, and the Mountlake Terrace Concern for Neighbors Food Bank is temporarily closed after a volunteer tested positive for COVID-19. Otherwise, the food banks continue to serve their communities.
“We really don’t plan on closing,” said Elizabeth Grant, director of the Snohomish Community Food Bank and president of the Snohomish County Food Bank Coalition. “We’re going to keep on going the best we can because we know that not only are we feeding 200 families a week, we’re also feeding the homeless and home-bound. We’re determined not to close.”
Food banks are already seeing an uptick in demand, with various locations reporting anywhere from a small increase to a 50% increase last week. With more businesses shutting down, that demand is expected to grow. Normally food banks require an ID and a piece of mail with an address for access, but those regulations are being relaxed — though it’s still recommended people go to their local food bank.
Meanwhile, the food banks are taking the necessary steps to remain open. They’re following the guidelines set by the Washington State Department of Health, and they’re changing their means of distribution. Most locations have switched to a drive-thru method, with clients remaining in their vehicles as pre-packed boxes are brought to them. Options for those without vehicles still exist, though with strict social-distancing measures.
Reggie Ramey Sr. (left) and Leif Winter await customers Tuesday afternoon at Marysville Community Food Bank. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
So far, stocks have held up, but they’re dwindling. Grocery stores, the biggest source of food donations, no longer have as much to contribute because shoppers are clearing the shelves. So the food banks are asking for help from the public.
“The need now is higher than ever,” said Jessica Moore, director of development for Volunteers of America. “We can really make the dollar stretch further (as low as three cents for a pound of food), so the safest and easiest way to help now is to make an online donation.”
There’s also a need for volunteers. Most who are regular volunteers at food banks are retirees who are in the coronavirus-vulnerable age range, so they are urged to remain home. Therefore many locations are in need of bodies. Volunteers need to be symptom-free and preferably adults.
Those in need of food, or those who are seeking to assist either by donating or volunteering, should contact their local food bank, either by phone or through the location’s website.
Snohomish County food banks
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