Edmonds Food Bank feeling impact of federal budget cuts

Food bank customers line up every Monday and Tuesday to receive groceries that will help keep their families fed. The Edmonds food bank is serving record numbers of families this holiday season, and is counting on the generosity of the local community to ensure that no one goes hungry.
Food bank customers line up every Monday and Tuesday to receive groceries that will help keep their families fed. The Edmonds food bank is serving record numbers of families this holiday season, and is counting on the generosity of the local community to ensure that no one goes hungry. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

Updated to clarify food distribution times and protocol for delivering perishable food.

The Edmonds food bank is swamped this season, and with the holidays approaching it will certainly get even busier.

Record numbers of families are lining up every Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in front of the food bank housed in the Edmonds United Methodist Church at 828 Caspers Street. Some mornings there are more than 100 people waiting when the doors open at 10 a.m. to distribute food to local families in need.

“If you think there’s no hunger in Edmonds, you’re not dealing with reality,” said food bank administrator Peggy Kennedy.

“This is shaping up as our busiest year ever,” she said. “With the deep cuts to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) taking effect this month, more people are using our services every day. Cost of living is extreme now. Many of our customers are working, but just don’t make enough to pay the bills and feed their families too. We’re really stretched.”

U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott toured the food bank last week. (Photo by Ken Pickle)
U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott toured the food bank last week. (Photo by Ken Pickle)

The impact of these changes even drew the attention of Congressman Jim McDermott, who toured the Edmonds Food Bank last week, speaking with a number of volunteers and clients.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that as of Nov. 1, a family of four with no changes in circumstances will suffer a $36/month reduction in benefits, and there may be more cuts on the horizon (see the CNBC article here.

The effects of these government program cuts are hitting Edmonds families hard.

Kennedy, who has been a food bank volunteer since 1981, reports that normal early November traffic at the Edmonds food bank averages around 300 families per week. But this year, 400 families are passing through each week — a 33-percent increase — and demand continues to grow. This week alone, the Edmonds food bank distributed groceries to 430 families.

Food bank volunteer Roberta Schemeta helps customer Alejandra Tovar.
Food bank volunteer Roberta Schemeta helps customer Alejandra Tovar. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

“So far we’ve been able to feed everyone,” she said. “But Thanksgiving is always our busiest season. Last year Thanksgiving brought 500 families per week to the food bank, and this year we expect more.”

Even in less-severe times, the food bank is a busy place. More than 120 volunteers give of their time to keep it running.

“Volunteers show up bright and early at 6:30 a.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays,” Kennedy said. “Monday is our prep day, when we inventory our donations and portion out our meat, dairy and other high-demand items into packages appropriate for a range of family sizes. On Tuesdays we set up tables and put out food to get ready for when we open the doors at 10:00. We stay until the last customer leaves, sometimes until late afternoon.”

- In addition to individual donations, the food bank truck makes 41 pickups per week of donated items from grocery stores, Northwest Harvest, and other organizations.
– In addition to individual donations, the food bank truck makes 41 pickups per week of donated items from grocery stores, Northwest Harvest, and other organizations. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

Kennedy reminds everyone that no donation is too small. “A few cans of food, a box of cereal, everything helps.” she said. “And if you can give cash, all the better. We can buy at wholesale, so your cash gift buys more food than if you spent it at the grocery and brought the food to us.”

Non-perishable food donations can be dropped off seven days a week between the hours of 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. “Just leave them in the grocery carts by the west doors,” Kennedy said. Cash donations can be left at the church office.

Perishable donations are a different story. Because of the risk of spoilage, they need to be kept refrigerated or frozen. Kennedy requests that perishables be dropped off only when staff is present. “We’re always here on Mondays between 6:30 a.m. and noon, and Tuesday from 6:30 until the last customer is served.”

– By Larry Vogel

  1. The news of our voluteer-powered and busier-than-ever Edmonds food bank being unable to meet the demands of our community in light of government budget cuts is troubling.

    We live in a society where one family couldn’t imagine being unable to put enough food on the table while the next family (with parents working full time even) doesn’t know for sure if they can feed their children a nutritious meal the next day. I believe it’s a symptom of how things have been re-jiggered in the last generation in favor of the Haves leaving many good hard-working Have-nots mired in structural poverty. I’m in the lucky arena where people eat out a lot with almost no regard to their ability to pay their bills.

    Imagine if caring neighbors would challenge themselves to donate as much money as they spend in restaurants each month to our local food bank to help those struggling to simply feed their families. If the food bank would embrace this proposal and organize a list of fellow-Edmonds-ites willing to participate, I’d be the first to sign up. Let me know if you like this idea.

    Rick Steves

  2. Rick and Teresa – I am sure MANY would sign up! Would you write an article based on Rick’s comment above and publish it? Perhaps choose a month. The food bank would be happy, I am sure, to coordinate with you. It’s a great idea! Perhaps could be an annual “Thanksgiving Challenge” in Edmonds.

  3. The UPS Store at Westgate Village, Edmonds Way and 100th, is collecting food for the Edmonds Food Bank. Feel free to bring your donations here and we will take them to the food bank.

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