Kent food bank sees the brunt of bad economy

Kent Food Bank volunteers Michael Frydenlund

Kent Food Bank volunteers Michael Frydenlund

As the economy continues to slide, more and more working-class families around the country and right here in Kent are trying to find ways to make ends meet.

For Sheila Dozier and her family of five, that means getting her canned goods and breads from the Kent Food Bank.

“I can’t make all my groceries at the store,” she said Wednesday. “Sometimes you just can’t do it all.”

Dozier, who is currently employed, said it has become increasingly difficult over the past year to pay all of her bills as the cost of food and utilities has increased.

“I have to do what I have to do to feed my family,” she said.

Dozier said she has been coming to the food bank for about a year. At first, it was to help top things off: now she said she comes just to make sure there is food on the table.

And the lines are getting longer, she said. As work is getting harder to find, Dozier said she has noticed more and more people at the food bank.

“Nothing is available so it makes it much harder to be self-sufficient,” she said of the job market. “A lot of people are in need and they just can’t make it.”

According to statistics provided by the food bank, Dozier is absolutely right.

“Our client numbers have definitely gone up,” said Food Bank Executive Director Jeniece Choate. “Some people are working, just not able to make (all of their bills.)”

So far this year, the number of clients served by the food bank is up 7.8 percent over 2007. That’s an additional 125 families per month. First-time visitors to the food bank are also up 25.8 percent over last year.

By this time in 2007, 15,136 families had visited the food bank. So far this year, the number is 17,059.

October was a particularly busy month for the food bank, as 273 new families and 56 new homeless clients visited the food bank, receiving a total of 78,210 pounds of food.

At a recent meeting of the South King County Food Coalition, Choate said all food-bank directors said their October numbers were “off the chart.”

“It was definitely a busy month all around King County,” she said.

Choate said the Kent Food Bank, which services the boundaries of the Kent School District, does not ask about a family’s situation, but said she has seen an increase in working families so far this year, including some Boeing workers who were on strike longer than they anticipated.

“Every person it’s a different reason they’re here and a different need they have,” she said.

The Kent Food Bank receives its food through government commodities, volunteer drivers who pick up perishable items from local grocery stores, churches, schools and individuals.

Choate said the food bank is “hanging on” but as winter sets in, she expects the client base to increase again.

“We used to have a much bigger stockpile in the back,” she said.

She also said while things will eventually get better, she is not sure when.

“We anticipate it will be a while,” she said.

Back in line, Dozier agreed, but urged other families to “hang in there” as she sees things getting better.

“I’m optimistic about change,” she said.

Brian Beckley can be reached at 253-437-6012 or bbeckley@kentreporter.com

BOX:

The Kent Food Bank is located at 515 W. Harrison St. Hours are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The food bank is also open from 5-6p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays, the Food Bank is open at Springwood Apartments at 132nd St and Kent Kangley Road.

Donations are accepted from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays or by appointment. The Food Bank accepts all non-perishable foods as well as monetary donations.

For more information, call 253-520-3550


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