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A food bank for all islanders

More than 100 turkeys await families in need at the Friday Harbor Food Bank.

“We’re going to do the whole nine yards for Thanksgiving,” Food Bank Manager Rachelle Radonski said.

Along with the 170 turkeys donated by Kings Market, the food bank will provide all the fixings for a festive holiday spread — including stuffing, potatoes and pumpkins to make a pie.

Radonski wants everyone to know the food bank isn’t just for people who are down on their luck.

“We’ve got plenty of food and we want to share,” she said.

The COVID pandemic has expanded the need for food banks everywhere. Feeding America noted there has been an average increase of 60 percent in the number of people seeking help from food banks.

“There’s so many reasons why people would need to use the food bank,” Radonski said. “I don’t think people even realize how the standards have changed.”

You are eligible to use the food bank if you earn up to 400 percent over the federal poverty level, Radonski explained. For a family of four, that would be $104,800 annually, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

To facilitate the food bank’s ability to provide help to those who may be hesitant to utilize their services, it has introduced an online ordering system. Radonski added the bank is trying to remove the stigma surrounding the use of a food bank.

“We’re really just trying to take away the stigma behind the food bank,” Radonski said. “Don’t be embarrassed, we’ve all had such a crazy hard year and we really just want people to have food on their table.

Though an income restriction exists, Radonski said receiving food from the bank is based on the honor system. The food bank does not require any financial information, just proof that someone is a San Juan Island resident.

“Because we don’t know people’s circumstances,” Radonski said. “We don’t ask. We just leave it to people, if you need help, we’re here.”

Addressing concerns anyone may have about security, Radonski added that the information it gathers on clients is not shared with anyone outside of the food bank as well.

“We really want people to use our services,” Radonski said. “Anyone who wants to can use the food bank.”

The new online ordering system also helps those who may be affected by COVID-19.

“If they’re bound to their home because of quarantine or something like that they still have an option to get food,” Radonski said. “COVID isn’t over, we just want everyone taken care of.”

While the food bank does receive some government funding to purchase food, donations are an important part of its operation. All financial donations from the community are used to purchase food, Radonski explained.

Noting how food on the island was scarce at a point amid the early COVID lock downs, Radonski said she’d like residents to use the food bank to stock their pantries in case of another lockdown.

“[We want to] make sure we all stay healthy and safe,” Radonski said.

The Friday Harbor Food Bank is open from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays; and the pick up time for online orders is from noon-2 p.m. on Thursdays. For more information about the food bank, and to utilize the online ordering system, visit Fridayharborfoodbank.weebly.com.