Bonney Lake food bank expands as funds shrink

Stew Bowen handles nearly two and a half tons of food donated during last Mayor's Food Drive in Bonney Lake.

The holiday season is a time for gratefulness and gift-giving, and not just for families and friends.

Food banks like the one in Bonney Lake have come to rely on the holiday spirit as a bulk source of revenue. The October, November and December months often bring in a large portion of the money that goes toward financing the food bank for the next year.

This year, though, the Bonney Lake Food Bank seems to be coming up short on financial donations as December quickly comes to a close.

Between October and Dec. 9, the food bank received almost $13,000 in donations, compared to the $20,000 that was donated the previous year during the same time period.

“It just feels tight,” said Executive Director Stew Bowen. “This time of year, I’m used to going to the post office and getting handfuls of checks. And this year, it’s just not there.”

Luckily for the food bank, its fiscal year begins in July, so a bountiful spring and early summer season could help the food bank catch up in its funds in order to stay at its current level of operation, which costs roughly $96,000 a year.

This financial strain comes at a time when the food bank is expanding its Backpack Program.

The program supplies kids with backpacks filled with food to last them through the weekend, when they otherwise may not have food to eat.

The program started when the food bank opened in 2009, supplying food to students at the five elementary schools in Bonney Lake

The Lakeridge and Mountain View middle schools were added to the program two years ago and last May, the program expanded to include Bonney Lake High School.

As of last week, the program fills backpacks for 141 students every Friday.

On average, the food bank serves between 1,000 and 1,300 households a month.

Last year, October set a record for households served a month since the food bank opened in 2009, serving 1,304 households out of the food bank alone.

This number does not include children in the backpack program, which would increase the number of people served.

The busiest month in 2015 was July, where 1,292 households were served at the food bank alone.

During the month of July, kids were able to get food at Allan Yorke Park with the food bank’s Kidz Mealz program, which is in operation June through September.

The food bank recorded more than 1,400 households were served through the Kidz Mealz program July 2015, increasing the number of households served during that month to more than 2,700.

But in the face of increasing need and falling revenue, Bowen said he is just going to have to hustle harder to make sure everyone who needs aid will receive it.

“We don’t cut. We grow,” Bowen said. “If that means I’ve got to reduce my salary, I’ll do that.”