Tucked away behind the local senior center, the volunteers of the Enumclaw Food Bank work diligently to serve city residents.
The building is not nearly as flashy or large as the city’s other food bank, Plateau Outreach Ministries, but it has all the necessities such an organization requires.
But a look at the last five years suggests their humble operation is taking a hit, client-wise, and leadership is worrying about that trend continuing into the future.
“The numbers are dropping, and I don’t understand why,” said Althea Griffith, assistant director at the Enumclaw Food Bank. “I’m trying to get the numbers back up.”
In the last five years, the numbers of households the food bank is helping has sunk by more than 25 percent, going from more than 5,000 to about 3,700 between 2015 and 2019 (2020 data is not complete).
The number of individuals being served is seeing even more of a precipitous drop, going from close to 13,500 clients in 2015 to just 4,750 in 2019, a decrease of more than 64 percent.
One reason Griffith believes the food bank is seeing less clients is because of their location and lack of advertisement.
“People are like, ‘I didn’t know there was another food bank,’” she said.
Her hypothesis appears backed by the dropping number of duplicate and non-duplicate clients, or clients that routinely use EFB services and people that only need a one-time boost.
For every age range, from 0 to 2 years old, 3 to 18 years old, 19 to 54 years old, and 55 years plus, the number of one-time clients have decreased over the last five years.
Return clients between 19 and 54 years of age have also dropped off, going from more than 4,600 in 2015 to 3,500 in 2019. However, the number of clients ages 0 to 2 have doubled in the last five years, increasing from 523 to 1,047.
Interestingly enough, the poundage of food the Enumclaw Food Bank gives to clients has been on the rise, going from 463,000 pounds in 2015 to 582,000 pounds in 2019, an increase of 25 percent — but with clients dropping off, some of the food is just going to waste, Griffith said.
Food bank hours at the EFB are Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
Given the pandemic, clients will be provided with pre-packed meals when they knock on the nonprofit’s door at 1350 Cole St.
WHY DOES ENUMCLAW HAVE TWO FOOD BANKS?
While it may seem redundant for a small city like Enumclaw to have two food banks, the two food banks actually receive support from completely different organizations.
“Plateau Outreach is with Northwest Harvest, and we’re with Food Lifeline,” Griffith said. “They’re two separate organizations. That’s why we’re separate, but… we work in coordination.”
In short, if one food bank doesn’t have the resources to help a client, the other may be able to assist.
And both food banks do more than just offer food — they also help clients receive utility and housing assistance.
According to EFB records, the nonprofit spent nearly $60,000 in utility assistance, housing vouchers, transportation, and medical costs for 394 families in 2019.
EFB clients can request income assistance by calling the food bank at 360-825-6188 or heading to their building during open hours.
The Enumclaw Food Bank existed long before Plateau Outreach Ministries came onto the scene in 1998.
According to Lawton Case, director of the Enumclaw Food Bank, the organization started in 1962, and it was run out of the basement of the Calvary Presbyterian Church.
The food bank ended up moving to its current location in 1969, and it received nonprofit 501(c)3 status with the sponsorship of the Enumclaw Kiwanis Club in 1990.