Many changes are happening at the Kent Food Bank due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the nonprofit deals with social distancing and fewer donations and volunteers.
“It’s been a little overwhelming, but we are hanging in there,” said Jeniece Choate, executive director of the Kent Food Bank and Emergency Services, in an April 3 email.
Choate said the food bank, 515 W. Harrison St., needs monetary donations.
“Two of our large food drives (Boy Scouts and Stamp Out Hunger) have been cancelled,” she said. “That will have a large impact on our non-perishable foods in the coming months. Monetary donations will help us purchase fresh foods like meat, dairy and eggs along with non-perishable items. Purchasing will allow us to buy in case/pallet quantities and have a specific delivery. Having a specific delivery will allow us to prepare, especially having enough volunteers able to lift and move the food into the food bank.”
Grocery stores haven’t had as many items to give to the food bank.
“Donations initially dropped dramatically, especially from the grocery stores,” said Choate, in her 14th year at the food bank, which has operated in Kent since 1970. “In the past week grocery stores have bounced back a little with produce and bread donations.”
Volunteers now pre-package boxes of groceries, including milk, eggs, frozen meat, dairy (yogurt, cheese), fresh produce, bread and sweet treats for distribution.
Sidewalk chalk is used daily to mark the distance between each waiting family, Choate said. One family comes to the “window” and they receive a box. After they have walked away the next family comes up.
Last week the food bank served 307 households which represented 795 people, Choate said. The previous week the food bank served 353 families representing 901 people.
“Typically we are slower the first week of the month as many receive their food stamps,” Choate said. “We anticipate the next few weeks the number of boxes going up.”
About 20 volunteers usually work each day at the food bank but that number has been reduced to about six to nine per day to practice social distancing.
Most of the volunteers are seniors, so that has complicated staffing.
“We have asked the majority of our volunteers to stay home and stay healthy,” Choate said. “The volunteers that are able to safely continue volunteering are doing fantastic work.”
Boxes are distributed Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the food bank’s east entry door. Tuesday has changed from a distribution day to a preparation day. Boxes are distributed for seniors 55 and older from 10 to 11 a.m. on Thursday.
How to donate
Donations can be made on the Kent Food Bank website or people can mail checks to Kent Food Bank, 515 W. Harrison St., Suite 107, Kent, WA 98032.
Individuals are the second highest funding source for the food bank behind the city of Kent. Businesses and churches also contribute.