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Bonney Lake food bank has hundreds of more clients in need with less and less food to give

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By Judy Halone-The Courier-Herald

The director of the Bonney Lake and Bread of Life food banks went to the organizations’ cupboards last week, and like the children’s nursery rhyme, the cupboards were bare.

“We are in a desperate situation,” Stew Bowen said. “We have very little food and no staples. It is miniscule.”

Since taking over the helm of leadership a year ago, Bowen said he and his volunteers have seen a steady rise in needy clients - a number he attributes to a worsening economy and a larger population of people to serve in the south Plateau region.

“When I came here, they were averaging a hundred families a month,” he said. “But since then, our numbers have increased; we served almost 500 families in August.”

With the economy hitting household budgets hard, Bowen said there were “several reasons” for the change.

First, the clients who often need help the most cannot afford a phone - which, in the past, was necessary in order to book a food bank appointment, he said.

“We have made some adjustments that made it easier,” he said. “So we did away with appointments and that opened it up to more people.”

The second reason was the implementation of another policy that changed the number of times clients could pick up food from once a month to twice monthly.

“Not everybody comes in twice a month, because they don’t need to,” he said. “But those who need to can.”

Bowen, who had just returned from the Washington Food Coalition Conference in Ellensburg, said he had the chance to network with other food bank agencies and discovered his problem is far from unique.

“They’re seeing about a 20 to 30 percent increase in clients each month, and we’re seeing about a 20 percent increase ourselves.”

Not only are the food banks short of food, but in desperate need of volunteer help, too.

“I would love to find someone who can offer their administrative help, someone who can drive the van to pick up food from the warehouses, and I need drivers in general,” he said. “I also need people who can sort food.”

In addition to its normal day-to-day operations, the food banks are also gearing up for the holiday season.

“We hope to distribute 300 holiday food baskets this season - that’s in addition to our normal food baskets,” he said.

With overwhelming support from the area last year, the food banks’ volunteers managed to help make the holidays brighter for 200 area families, he said. And with the busiest time of year just up around the corner, Bowen hopes to canvas schools and organizations beginning this week.

While that happens, both food banks are keeping mindful that families still need basic food in the meantime - and they’re counting on the public’s generosity to make it happen.

“Right now, we need everything,” he said. “We can use dairy products, canned soups and tomatoes and beans.”

And while both of the food banks may have little, they still manage to share what they have.

“We’ve sent some folks out with some pretty skinny baskets,” he said. “But we’ve been able to help. No one walks away with out food.”

For information about the Bonney Lake or Bread of Life Food banks, call 253-863-4043.

Reach Judy Halone at jhalone@courierherald.com or 360-802-8210.

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