In any other year — and with great hopes for next year — many of us would be strolling the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe this week, enjoying live music, carnival rides, rodeo events, 4-H demonstrations and more.
And food, of course. Walla Walla onion burgers. Roasted corn on the cob. Corn dogs. Purple Cows. Fisher scones with jam. And that’s just the first trip through the food stands.
Now that we’ve made you hungry, can we ask you think about the families in Snohomish County for whom hunger because of economic hardship is a recurring threat?
Like so many of the fairs, festivals and other events that make summer a treat in the county, the Evergreen State Fair was cancelled earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. But on what would have been opening day of the fair, the fairgrounds’ west parking lot will be open Thursday between 4 and 7 p.m. for the 2020 Snohomish County and Volunteers of America Food Drive.
Even in typical years, the food banks and food assistance programs in Snohomish County communities rely on the generosity of residents to help supply families and individuals with the food and other supplies they need in times of hardship. That need is greater now, perhaps even more so than earlier in the pandemic.
While the state’s jobless rate has declined from its highs of 15 percent in May and 16 percent in April to 10 percent in July, those who remain on unemployment, since the end of July, no longer are receiving a federal supplemental benefit of $600 a week, following the expiration of that provision of the Cares Act that Congress passed in March.
Recently, state officials announced the state would apply for an additional federal benefit — $300 a week — outlined in an executive order by President Trump, but it could take the state Employment Security Department several weeks to set up the program, and there’s no certainty about how long it would run.
As well, there is no assurance Congress can agree to a new package of financial assistance. The House passed its package in May, but found no agreement with the Senate or White House, prior to Congress’ August recess.
The loss of that supplemental benefit means that many families in the county and the state will need to rely even more on community food banks and food assistance programs. And those programs rely on you.
The food drive at the fairgrounds, however, allows everyone to enjoy some fun and community spirit to celebrate their generosity. As part of the food drive, those bringing in donations can visit several food trucks in the parking lot, offering up some fair favorites.
The fair’s food drive isn’t new; it’s been part of the opening day festivities for several years; last year the drive brought in 33,866 pounds of donated food, according to a fair news release.
Also those bringing donations to the fairgrounds are encouraged to decorate their vehicles with a country fair theme and can get a entry form as they drive in, then drive past judges. The winner will be presented four fair and carnival tickets for the 2021 Evergreen State Fair. And second place can be enjoyed immediately: a basket of Fisher scones.
Among suggested donations are canned vegetables, beans and fruits, canned meats, pasta, peanut butter, rice, shelf-stable milk, jellies and jams, flour, sugar, cooking oil and other kitchen staples and diapers, baby wipes and toiletries. As well, donations of school supplies are appreciated.
And monetary donations are especially welcome, and can be made to the Western Washington Volunteers of American at its website, www.voaww.org. Donations also can be made to the Washington Food Fund at philanthropynw.org/wa-food-fund or directly to community food banks through the Snohomish County Food Bank Coalition at www.snohomishcountyfoodbankcoalition.org/.
While all donations are appreciated, monetary gifts are helpful because:
They’re more cost-effective for food banks, which can obtain food from suppliers, farmers and others at lower cost, and can select the particular food and other items that are most in need;
It allows the food banks to purchase fresh produce, meat and other perishable items that provide a healthier diet for food bank clients;
It helps limit food waste, by allowing the food banks to take advantage of available surplus from restaurants, stores and suppliers; and
It’s easier to keep track of the tax deduction. Congress recently adopted tax legislation that allows taxpayers to deduct up to $300 of qualified cash donation to tax-exempt public charities for 2020, and the donations don’t have to be itemized on longer tax forms.
We’ll have to do without the Evergreen State Fair this year, as well as a full belly of fair fare, but we can leave the fairgrounds with a full heart.