The downturn in the economy has taken its toll on many in this community and the Lake Stevens Food Bank is counted among those who have seen changes in the last few years. But even with more and more people needing help to provide food for their families, the local food bank has been able to deliver and help everyone who has shown up at its doors.
The problem isn’t necessarily that they are short on food, thanks to many organizations and local groups always willing to extend a hand when needed, but that their facility is becoming increasingly smaller, due in part, to the high volume of food they take in.
With over 70 volunteers and 351 families standing in line for help last month alone, the 1,100 sq. ft. building just isn’t enough for the growing needs of the community so the Lake Stevens Food Bank is looking to move but as of now, they don’t have many options.
What started as a small church operation over 30 years ago, has grown into a necessary community amenity.
“It started out as a church cupboard and it has grown,” Lake Stevens Food Bank Director Jim Foster said. “It was soon taken over by a board from the community and taken out of the church’s authority.”
Serving over 1,050 people just last month, the food bank has grown 12 to 15 percent in the last year alone.
“We did not get the amount of growth that a lot of the country did for some reason,” Foster said. “ If we had gotten that kind of growth we wouldn’t have been able to operate because we wouldn’t have the room to feed them.”
Currently, their clients have to stand outside in the rain, snow or heat while waiting to receive their donations not only because of the food which is stored within the facility but also because the refrigerator and freezer each take up 100 sq. ft. They have also been asked by Food Lifeline, a large contributor to the Lake Stevens Food Bank, to keep the palettes of canned foods at least six inches away from the wall.
Food Lifeline is one of many contributors which help to keep the Lake Stevens Food Bank stocked and able to help those in need.
“We receive donations from local stores such as Albertsons, Haggen and Safeway each morning, every Monday through Thursday,” Foster explained. “Food drives, several during the course of the year, including the Postal Service, realtors, schools, Boy Scouts of America and, churches all help to keep the food bank open.”
The state sets guidelines for the food bank requiring that those seeking donations have enough food to feed everyone in their family for three meals for three days.
“We give more because we are able to give more,” Foster said.
The need for a larger facility is great but the location of that facility has been hard to come by and the Lake Stevens Food Bank continues to look at every possibility.
“We have been to every church in the community looking for a place that a church may be able to build on their property, including Ebenezer. At one time it looked like it was going to be the place we would be settling but it just didn’t work out,” Foster said.
“We have also looked at vacant churches like the little white church on Chapel Hill but it is too small and there isn’t enough parking for our clients. Once you get inside the building there isn’t much more room than what we have where we are.”
Sherwood Learning Center has offered to help out but they ran into problems with access and visibility.
“Financially we couldn’t do it,” Foster said.
Another option has the food bank talking to the City of Lake Stevens, who have purchased a lot adjacent to Eagle Ridge Park which includes an old barn.
“We have asked the city to give us use of the Eagle Ridge Park building that will become part of the park. They are having a public meeting to see if that is something they want to do. They have another plan for the park but they are willing to take a look at it,” Foster said. “All we know is that there is enough room for us in that building.”
When and if they are able to find a larger more convenient facility, they would like to be able to open their doors more than just their Thursday afternoon distribution hours.
“We have often thought it would be a wonderful thing if we could be open more than just the one day. One reason is because we have large families and single senior citizens and we thought that it would be nice to be open for just the seniors or disabled,” Foster explained. “It would be so fantastic to be able to do that. The way we are it’s such a large job to be open, it’s nearly impossible for us to do that.”