EVERETT — The procession is long and the need profound as strangers descend at the same time to the same place looking for the same thing.
For a few hours each Friday at the Faith Food Bank, 400 to 500 cars line the street waiting for a donation that may be a lifeline.
Ahead, about 30 volunteers organize boxes of perishables, gallons of milk and any other snacks they can spare, into rows for distribution. People drive through, pop their trunks and are given food, no questions asked.
The demand is greater than ever, another reminder that the pandemic does more than take our breath away. It steals jobs, drains bank accounts and erodes livelihoods.
The food bank at Faith Lutheran Church, 6708 Cady Road in Everett, started in 2014 with two volunteers, a small space and about 10 customers. After serving around 300 people a week in February, food bank manager Roxana Boroujerdi estimated they now aid 1,600 people each Friday.
“A lot of people feel ashamed, but they shouldn’t feel that way, that is what our community is for,” Boroujerdi said. “God tells us we are supposed to feed the hungry, help the needy, love our neighbors, so that is what all of us are here for today.”
Distribution begins around 11 a.m., but cars start filing in much earlier.
This week, the box of food included chicken, meatballs, potatoes, onions and an assortment of fruit, in addition to a gallon of milk and another box of canned goods. Boroujerdi estimated the food would be worth more than $300 a box at retail value.
She said one man cried after receiving the food. His family couldn’t afford meat for months.
“When you see that, how can it not touch your heart?” she said.
The perishables are from Catholic Community Services and the nonperishables were supplied by Volunteers of America. Rodland Toyota paid for a forklift to assist this month’s distribution and more than $10,000 was donated by the group 100+ Women Who Care About Snohomish County.
Boroujerdi said the food bank has upward of 60 local partners assisting with provisions and resources.
“It’s good and bad,” she said. “It’s good we have the support of so many people in our community, so many businesses and other organizations, that we are able to get all this food, but it’s bad people need all this food.”
The demand is well-documented. The nonprofit Feeding America estimates Snohomish County saw a 56% increase in food insecurity from 2018 to 2020.
Pat and Ray Qualls first came to the food bank as clients after Ray was temporarily laid off from his job at Boeing. Ray said it was a humbling experience, but an important reminder that you aren’t by yourself in this world.
Now, the couple volunteers each Friday with the food distribution. Pat serves as Boroujerdi’s second-in-command and Ray flags cars along Madison Avenue before heading off to work second shift at Boeing.
“Everybody wonders at work if they’re going to be the next one (let go),” Ray said. “You wonder what would you do, and it’s comforting to know food banks like Faith Lutheran are there.”
Pat said she tries to relate to people, sharing that she’s been in their shoes. The Faith Food Bank wants to remove the stigma around seeking help.
“A person shouldn’t feel ashamed or shy,” Boroujerdi said. “You just drive through, we don’t collect any data, so everyone should please come here and get food if they need it. Don’t go hungry, we don’t want that happening in Everett or Snohomish County.”
In addition to Friday’s distributions, the food bank offers drive-up to-go dinners on Tuesday nights from 5 to 6 p.m.
The twice-weekly operation is always accepting more volunteers or donations. Boroujerdi and Pat Qualls said it isn’t always easy finding volunteers or getting food and resources, but the community need outweighs any challenges they meet.
“It’s important every single one of these people have hope,” Pat said. “On Friday mornings, we are that hope.”
Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; email@example.com; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.
Ian Davis-Leonard reports on working class issues through Report for America, a national service program that places emerging journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. To support Ian’s work at The Daily Herald with a tax-deductible donation, go to www.heraldnet.com/support.