By Matt Nagle
The longer that the COVID-19 virus remains a public health threat, the more likelihood that people who don’t normally use food banks will turn to them. In light of this, local food banks are implementing new ways to serve people and are committed to staying open even though volunteers are down while food needs are up.
“Some folks have never had to use a food bank before but now are facing that need,” said Kevin Glackin-Coley, director of St. Leo Food Connection. “Please come down and we will serve you. There is no need for paperwork. Don’t let the fact that you’ve never used a food bank stop you from using it if you have to.”
St. Leo’s physical location is at 1323 S. Yakima Ave, open these days and hours: 1:30-5:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday. Since St. Leo doesn’t have a set-up conducive to drive-up services, volunteers box up as much items as they can and have people come in on a staggered basis. Items offered range from diapers, wipes and pet food to fresh produce, dairy, meat, perishables, canned items and more.
St. Leo’s mobile food bank used to make three stops around the Springbrook neighborhood but now sets up at just one stop, Springbrook Park in Lakewood, every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon and is open to everyone.
The most urgent needs at St. Leo are volunteers and financial donations. “We haven’t seen a spike in client numbers yet, but we anticipate it to ramp up this month with people having longer layoffs from work,” Glackin-Coley said. To learn more, visit www.FoodConnection.organd click on “Get Involved” and “Ways to Give.”
Just like at St. Leo Food Connection, at Eloise’s Cooking Pot, the number of those seeking food is up while funding and food donations have decreased, according to founder and director Ahndrea Blue. About 500 new deliveries were just added this week.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “We usually see 19,000 people a month and within three weeks we’ve had a 75 percent increase.”
To accommodate social distancing and help keep everyone safe, the food bank switched to deliveries and drive-up service, which is important to keep people off the street as much as possible, and a walk-up service is available across the street.
“We’re committed to being here,” Blue said, and she praised the volunteers that are there putting themselves at risk so that people can get fed. She said the community at large has been generous as well.
“We are so lucky and beyond blessed. Yesterday I put out a call for hand sanitizer and masks and this community is amazing. People showed up to share what they have. I’ve been in awe. We have employees from companies that are down right now helping with deliveries – a mortgage broker with a huge truck, a pilot who’s helping us… I’ve been so touched.”
Eloise’s Cooking Pot offers a variety of items including dog and cat food, diapers, wipes, books, meat, eggs, fresh fruits, vegetables, bread, milk, drinks and snacks and more. Not everything is available every day, as donations change, but the food bank does its best to stock items most in need.
The food bank is open Sunday 1-4 p.m.; Monday 1:30-4:30 p.m.; Tuesday and Friday 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; closed Wednesday and Thursday. A big need right now is for volunteers. Sign up at www.themadf.orgwhere donations can also be made to purchase food.
Tacoma Adventist Community Services food bank is unique in that it serves low income clients on restrictive diets due to a medical condition such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer. Executive Director Leslie Badgley said the food bank has been able to keep nutritious foods in stock for these special clients, thanks to support from Emergency Food Network and Food Lifeline. “They see to it that we have the food to cover what we need,” she said. “We’ve been doing really good keeping up with the amount of quality food we’re giving people, and we’re getting new clients daily.”
What’s different now, though, is that students are home from school and need fed as well. Badgley said high protein items like peanut butter and tuna are most needed now from the public since the food bank doesn’t regularly carry these types of items.
The biggest need is for volunteer helpers, as most of the regular volunteers are over 65 or have health concerns that prevent them from helping out during the pandemic.
“We’re down to just four volunteers today and it just wears them out. We need younger people to help us get through this,” Badgley said. “I’m hoping that people, if they’re coming here for help, that they remember to be patient. All of the volunteers are having to adhere to strict guidelines to keep everybody safe and so that our clients get good, healthy food.”
There are a variety of ways to donate time. For example, much help is needed to unload food truck deliveries on Wednesday and Thursday mornings and this usually takes about just an hour. Help is needed to box up food items, assist drive-up clients and to sanitize the place. To learn more, search “Tacoma Adventist Community Services” on Facebook or call (253) 272-8289.