Need up, donations down at Enumclaw food banks

Plateau Outreach Ministries Executive Director Britt Nelson gathers canned goods from the food bank's dwindling stocks.

Entering into the busy season for food banks everywhere, the folks at Plateau Outreach Ministries and Enumclaw Kiwanis Food Bank have seen an increase in clients coming through their doors but, so far, not an increase in donations.

That has left the cupboards a little bare for the moment.

Today, Wednesday, is the scheduled Thanksgiving pick up for the POM food bank, but as of last week there were still many empty crates in the storage room, crates usually filled with canned goods.

According to executive director Britt Nelson, the food bank’s selection of staples, especially canned proteins like chicken or tuna, is very low.

Nelson said Northwest Harvest, a statewide food bank distributor that works with than 350 food banks across the Evergreen State, provides food every week, but they have been focused on fresh foods, not meat or milk.

Northwest Harvest provides food at a rate of about $1.50 per pound to food banks, allowing them to fill many of the hole son their shelves, though not all of them.

And despite being closed in the month of September for renovations to their Cole Street space, Nelson said the large, seasonal numbers of people they usually see have started early this year.

In the past two weeks alone, Nelson estimated Plateau Outreach Ministries has served nearly 100 families from all over the region. That’s up from around 50 or 60 in an average week in July.

Not only are more people in need as the weather has turned cold, Nelson said the food bank’s overall numbers this year are also up from last year. According to the their records, Plateau Outreach Ministries gave out about 150,000 pounds of food in 2011. So far this year, they’ve already given out more than 100,000 pounds, and the food bank was closed in September.

A couple of blocks south on Cole Street, Vicky Stratton paints the same bleak picture.

As assistant director of the Enumclaw Kiwanis Food Bank, Stratton knows exactly how many folks in the community look forward to a little help putting food on the table.

During October, Stratton and others at the all-volunteer food bank passed out 14,520 pounds of food, helping 1,754 people. That number included 871 youngsters from birth to 18 years of age.

“It’s trending upward all the time,” Stratton said the the need for assistance. Last month, there were 34 new families on the books looking for food.

At the same time, donations of cash and food are down.

“It’s been really low this year,” Stratton said, blaming a lingering recession for people’s inability to donate like they used to.

Enumclaw Kiwanis Food Bank contracts with Food Lifeline for some of its supplies and, as part of that arrangement, can only help residents living within the Enumclaw School District boundaries. Supplies come from Food Lifeline, but Stratton also credits Safeway, QFC and Grocery Outlet for providing much-needed food.

Enumclaw Kiwanis Food Bank is open to clients from 9 to 11:45 a.m. every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, except for an annual closure the last two weeks of the year.

Senior Writer Kevin Hanson contributed to this story.