With Food Donations Down, The Highline Area Food Bank Needs Your Help

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by Ralph Nichols

While the number of families seeking help from the Highline Area Food Bank in Burien increased by 17 percent during the first six months of 2009, food donations are down by more than 30 percent.

“In this recession, we’re hurt the most by the lack that kind of giving,” said Mike Werle, executive director of the Highline Food Bank. “At every food drive for the past year and a half, the poundage of donated food has been going down.”

Werle notes that 380 pounds of food were donated during Prudential’s food drive in Burien on Oct. 1, compared to 780 pounds last year.

Yet, he adds, “We’re doing better than some food banks.”

This fall, the Highline Area Food Bank has been serving about 850 families a month.

Located at 18300 4th Ave South, the bank distributes food to clients on Tuesdays from 12 to 2:30 p.m., Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and the second Tuesday of each month from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

The value of donated food distributed last year topped $1,042,980. Food donations come from supermarkets, smaller stores and food outlets, and individual donors. Day-old and damaged goods come from:

  • Fred Meyer
  • Safeway
  • Albertson’s
  • Three Starbucks
  • Little Ceasar’s
  • Mud Bay pet store
  • Bartell Drug in Burien
  • QFC in Normandy Park
  • Safeway and Gai’s Bakery in SeaTac

In addition to financial donations from individuals, businesses and churches, the food bank receives grants from federal, state and city governments, King County, United Way, and FEMA.

Financial donations, which Werle said “are way up” even as food donations are down, are essential to the food bank’s mission. “The purchase of food is essential to our ability to give out a nutritionally balanced unit of service to our clients.”

The Highline Area Food Bank serves clients north of 192nd Street and south of 116th Street, from Pacific Highway/International Boulevard/Military Road west to Puget Sound. Of those served, 42 percent are adults, 18 percent are seniors, 38 percent are children, and 2 percent are infants to age 2.

Clients come from Burien (65%), SeaTac (20.5%), Normandy Park (4.5%), and unincorporated King County (4%). Six percent say they are homeless.

The food bank negotiated a 25-year lease at its present facility, the former Manhattan Community Center, which Werle calls “a heck of a deal.” It opened there in 1996 and since has added 40-foot and 20-foot insulated containers and a 12 foot by 24 foot walk-in cooler and freezer for an on-site storage capacity of about 60,000 pounds of food.

“On average,” he says, “we go through 50,000 to 65,000 pounds of food a month.

The large storage capacity gives the Highline food bank the ability to accept large donations and then give some to other food banks if they can’t use all of some items.

Werle says Highline and other area food banks adopted in 2001 a list of foods, which was reviewed and revised slightly by nutritionists from the University of Washington, to provide clients a “standard minimum unit of service.”

Clients self-select from a standard list of items at the food bank, with the variety depending on what has been donated. Once a month their minimum unit includes milk, meat, peanut butter, cereal, soup, canned fruit and vegetables, rice, beans and Jell-o.

Once a week they can get fresh fruits and vegetables, potatoes and onions, bread and other baked goods, baby food, nutritional supplements – and pet food when it’s been donated.

For Thanksgiving and Christmas, which Werle describes as “special giving,” more than 400 families will be served before each day with holiday foods as well as some of the regular food items that are distributed.

At Christmas, donated toys will be given to the children of clients at the John Knox Presbyterian Church fellowship hall in Normandy Park.

After the holidays, he says, “the need continues,” but donations decline sharply from early January until May, when the U.S. Postal Service holds its annual carrier food drive at “the best time of year for that to happen.”

In addition to providing food for clients in need, the Highline Area Food Bank also serves new people from outside the area for that day and refers them to the food bank closest to their home, helps people sign up for DSHS services and rental and energy assistance.

Twice a month, a United Way worker comes in to help them sign up for food stamps and summer nutritional programs for kids.

There’s no question that the Highline Area Food Bank could use some help this season; here’s how YOU can lend a hand:

  • Send checks made out to Highline Area Food Bank and mail to:

Highline Area Food Bank
P.O. Box 66427
Burien, WA 98166

(you can also place checks into the drop box located at the Normandy Park QFC)

  • Drop by the Burien Albertsons any Saturday or Sunday between 10am and 2pm and buy some “Turkey Bucks,” which come in $1, $5 and $10 denominations. Turkey Bucks are converted in to actual, hot Complete Holiday Meals for people in the Highline community to enjoy on Thanksgiving Day (which, by the way, is Thursday Nov. 26th).
  • Drop non-perishable food off at Page2Books (15706 1st Ave South; 206-248-7248‎) which delivers to the Food Bank every Tuesday. Also, on Saturday (Nov. 14th) they are donating ALL proceeds from their $1 Book Cart to the Food Bank.
  • Come to The B-Town Blog’s “Food Bank Blog Party” on Tuesday night, Dec. 8th at The Tin Room in Olde Burien! Stay tuned for more details soon…

For more information, visit the food bank’s website here.

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