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Cities unite to battle hunger

Federal Way is committing 30 days — instead of the traditional one day — to gather food for the hungry.

The 16th annual Mayor’s Day of Concern for the Hungry will run 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 27 at grocery stores throughout 24 King County cities. But, the Federal Way City Council announced Tuesday that, while this day will be recognized, the goal is to collect food all month.

The Federal Way food bank has seen an increase in demand. The bank was seeing 45 to 60 new visitors per week in late July, food bank supervisor Mary Craves-Hollands said. The increase in people who need assistance began around February, she said.

“We have just a problem. The lines at the food bank are just blocks long,” council member Linda Kochmar said.

Knowing this, the city council is asking churches, service organizations, scouting troops and residents to pitch in what they can to help their neighbors.

At Kochmar’s church, St. Vincent de Paul Parish, ideas of how to help the needy have circulated, she said. One idea mentioned is to send parishioners home with a brown bag and ask each to return it the next week full of food to donate to the food bank. These types of efforts will take place through the end of the month, in addition to the annual Mayor’s Day of Concern for the Hungry.

The effort is an Emergency Feeding Program project. The program provides goods through six distribution centers, separate from the Multi-Service Center’s Federal Way food bank, in partner cities, said executive director Arthur Lee. It offers those in need a variety of prepared nutritional meals, Lee said. Food for diabetics, infants and the homeless is provided, he said.

Each year on the Mayor’s Day of Concern for the Hungry, volunteers station themselves outside participating grocery stores and provide customers with a list of items — peanut butter, canned vegetables, soups, lunch meats and more — that are needed by the city’s less fortunate population.

“It’s a project we do county-wide and in each area we ensure that food returns back into that community,” Lee said

Typically, the EFP attempts to place volunteers at 60 grocery stores county-wide. This year, the agency hopes to expand its volunteer efforts to staff 100 stores.

“In just the last six months, we’ve seen an 81 percent increase in the amount of food that is being requested from our more than 130 distribution partners,” Lee said in a Sept. 2 press release.

The EFP does not have a set goal for how much food it would like to collect on the mayor’s day, but more is needed this year than was gathered last year, Lee said.

“Last year things were a bit slow here,” Lee said. “Again, we are trying hard to get back to that number and certainly to exceed it.”

Lee said Federal Way’s efforts to encourage a month of giving was commendable.

“We have a great, caring community so I know they will help,” Kochmar said.

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

Check it out:

To learn more about the Mayor’s Day of Concern for the Hungry, visit www.emergencyfeeding.org/mdoc.html. Information on how to register to be a volunteer is provided here. EFP asks that volunteers register before Sept. 19. A list of participating grocers will be available the same day.

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