Weight on Food Bank rises in winter | Guest Column

Bill Cumming - Journal file photo
Bill Cumming
— image credit: Journal file photo

By Bill Cumming

Special to the Journal

The San Juan Island/Friday Harbor Food Bank, operating in a small building across from MarketPlace, is one of the most important 501 C-3 non-profit organizations on San Juan Island.

Each week it provides basic, necessary and healthy food to an average of 120 households. That translates into providing basic, necessary and healthy food to about 1,100 individuals each month. The number of those seeking assistance continues to increase as the economy is slow to recover—especially for the working poor.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: How does the Food Bank obtain the food it distributes?

A: Ninety percent of the food the Food Bank distributes is purchased locally with funds provided by you—our local individual donors, including donations from important local family foundations.

Ten percent of the food the Food Bank purchases is purchased with funds from state food assistance funds administered through the Bellingham Food Bank. In addition, some foods are supplied on a monthly basis through the federal government’s surplus commodities program.

Bread and fresh produce are donated by local businesses and gardeners. These are most appreciated by consumers and assist in extending the Food Bank’s limited funds.

Valmark provides valuable food products and in-kind services during the year—especially during the holiday season. Friday Harbor Freight provides donated transport of commodities from Bellingham on a monthly basis

Community donations of non-perishable food items not only help stretch the food budget, they also assist in creating awareness within the community of the fact that there are families in our community who need assistance to meet their basic needs.

Q: Who uses the San Juan Island/ Friday Harbor Food Bank?

A: Fifty-six percent of those being served are between the ages of 19 and 54 years old; 25 percent of those being served are children under 18 years of age living in households served.

Nineteen percent of those being served are senior or disabled residents living on fixed incomes

Q: Does the Food Bank have other expenses? Yes.

A: We are most appreciative that the Mullis Community Senior Center provides the Food Bank space to operate on its property with no expense; however, utilities (power, refuse, and telephone), pest control care, general supplies, and management costs are necessary expenses above and beyond the purchase of food. Donations are the only way to meet these necessary expenses of doing business.

Q: What is next?

A: In winter months, the Food Bank definitely sees the most need for its services.

This winter promises to be more challenging than ever due to the reduction in programs that help children and families such as Food Stamps, Women-Infants-and-Children (WIC), child care assistance, et cetera. The increase in the cost of food affects all of us.

Surely you have noticed how much more you are paying for food. The Food Bank certainly has. This increase in the cost of food—no matter where you buy it—is something we are all experiencing.

The Food Bank runs an efficient, bare bones operation.  Dedicated volunteers do the food ordering, shelf stocking, and staffing on Wednesdays and Saturdays between noon and 2 p.m. Donations are accepted between 11 a.m. and noon, or by appointment. Volunteers are needed to assist on days open.  Leave a message at 378-4640, or stop by during open hours.

Thank you always supporting your local food bank.

— Editor’s note: Former Sheriff Bill Cumming is a member of the Food Bank board of directors.


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