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Federal Way Food Bank short on food, long on lines

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Federal Way branch is seeing dozens of new visitors every week

An increased cost of living has the Federal Way Food Bank seeing a record-setting number of visitors.

The Multi-Service Center’s food bank is currently serving a population similar in number to that served during the holidays, CEO Dini Duclos said. Returning, seasoned and new visitors are turning to the food bank to feed their families.

“For some people this is the only place they are getting food and clothing,” food bank supervisor Mary Craves-Hollands said.

In June 2007, the food bank served approximately 1,950 residents. In May 2008, it served 2,169. The number is steadily growing, Tricia Schug, MSC community relations manager said. The food bank is seeing 45 to 60 new visitors per week and the increase in people who need assistance began about six months ago, she said.

Loretta Johnson has been coming to the bank for many years, but does so only when she is in dire need, she said. She was able to get back on her feet and did not need the food bank’s help for some time. But her daughter and two grandkids recently moved in with her and she has found a need to visit the food bank once again. She is not the only one needing assistance.

“I’ve seen the increase in people. The lines are longer,” Johnson said.

Yvonne Butler is also familiar with the food bank.

Multiple doctor appointments and a grandson at home have made paying for food worrisome. She visits the food bank, but attempts to save money on food by planting vegetables at home.

“When you have the children out of school, food goes fast,” Butler said. “I don’t know what we’d do without food banks.”

Families such as Tina Fowler’s are discovering getting by without a little help is difficult to do. Fowler visited the food bank for the first time Monday. She hoped to find healthy foods for her recently diagnosed diabetic daughter.

“The living expenses are crazy,” Fowler said.

Meeting peoples’ needs has become harder for the food bank due to increases in gas and food prices, Schug said. Some of the food the bank provides is bought at bulk-food prices.

In August 2007, a case of beef stew (12 cans at 15 ounces each) cost the food bank $10.92. Today, a case costs $18.24. A case of tuna fish cost $24.96. The same thing is now $34.56. Baby formula has jumped in price $35.46 in the past year. It currently costs the food bank $74.10 for 24 12-ounce portions.

Food also comes to the bank in the form of donations. Multiple vans travel to pick up donated food, but while the vans continue to make trips, the price of gasoline has increased approximately 47 percent in the past year and food donations have dramatically decreased, Schug said.

The rising prices has caused the Federal Way Food Bank to change some of its policies.

One example can be seen in the food bank’s recent decision to ration bread. Grocery stores are donating less of the item, which leaves the food bank with less to give out.

“They are ordering just what they need, so there isn’t any slush room,” Craves-Hollands said.

Last year, there was of plenty of bread to spare. Today, a person visiting the food bank will receive a ration of bread based on the number of occupants in his or her home. Bread is not the only item high in demand and low in supply. Without another large food drive or donation, the food available at the bank now will last only another month and half, warehouse manager Tammy Solomon said.

Martha Hykel works for Washington State University as a food and nutrition cooking instructor. She routinely visits approximately 10 South King County food banks and provides visitors recipes and tips for how to most effectively use the food available to them.

Hykel takes note of the number of people she sees at the food banks and the amount of food they are leaving with.

“They are going away with less (food),” she said.

Contact Jacinda Howard at: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565

Check it out:

The Federal Way Food Bank operates Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Residents are asked to bring identification and proof of a Federal Way address. Anyone who wishes to make a donation or schedule an appointment should call (253) 838-6810.

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