Although it is encouraging to know that there has been a slight drop in the number of Washington state residents needing to visit food pantries, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) says the need is still high.
Adventist Community Services Food Bank Director Helaina Meyers said the number of residents being served in Sunnyside has been growing.
“Every week I see between 15 and 20 new residents,” she said, stating there are a growing number of young families locally who are being served by the food bank.
Meyers said families are doing their best to stretch their food budgets, but the loss of a job or fewer hours, and medical costs have contributed to some people needing extra assistance.
The WSDA said there were more than 8.35 million visits to food pantries across the state between June 2012 and June 2013.
Families already relying on food pantries, however, were going more often and needed more food, according to officials.
“Food banks and other assistance programs are always stretched thin this time of the year as we approach the holidays,” WSDA Director Bud Hover said. “Our partnerships with emergency food providers, farmers and ranchers help contribute to food security, but every donation counts, including cash donations that can give food pantries the flexibility to buy healthy food options.”
Meyers said the Sunnyside food bank appears nearly empty after distributing food to approximately 1,600 people each week. She said 197 boxes of food were distributed last week. One box has enough food to feed a family of four.
Thankfully, said Meyers, the community has been supportive of the food bank, making it possible to keep local residents fed.
“Most of these people have never had to visit a food bank before…what amazes me is that they often will take their box of food and return, asking if they can volunteer,” she said, noting those served by the food bank are not trying to obtain something for nothing.
Meyers said she is currently in the process of trying to obtain turkeys for Thanksgiving and stuffed animals for Christmas gifts.
“There is really a need...I want these families to have nice holidays,” she said.
‑ Jennie McGhan can be contacted at 509-837-4500, or email JMcGhan@DailySunNews.com