Food banks need help providing for people during COVID-19 pandemic

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FEDERAL WAY, Wash. – Some families are not able to afford essential items needed during the COVID-19 pandemic and food banks across the region are stepping up efforts to serve those in need.

However, some of the non-profits are also in need of supplies and volunteers in order to continue serving the community.

The Multi-Service Center Food Bank in Federal Way has been busy preparing bags of groceries during the outbreak. Dan Lancaster, MSC Food Bank director, said they have seen a 25 percent increase in the number of customers. He also said they expect the surge to continue.

“These are uncharted waters we’ve been in, but we’re preparing for 25, 30 to 40 percent increase. We just don’t know,” said Lancaster.

A first, the food bank was not sure how it would keep up with the growing demand. Lancaster said volunteer numbers dropped as much as 85 percent after social distancing orders. A few days ago, MSC sent a call out for help to the community for volunteers. Within a couple days, Lancaster said more than enough people signed up to help.

“I was just sitting at home and I felt like I was kind of going crazy. And thought, what’s a meaningful way to give back to the community, especially now that so many people are suffering from the coronavirus fears or the pandemic,” said Johannes Bramann during his second day of volunteering.

“To see the love and care that comes from our community is just amazing. And we’re so excited to continue to serve,” said Lancaster. “We know the need is going to increase. And we’re just so grateful to the community that is Federal Way to take care of their own.”

Lancaster reminded the public that food banks in other regions could also use the support.

“Reach out--whether it’s time, service, treasures. It’s needed, not just during this time, but ongoing as well,” said Lancaster.

In Snohomish County, Volunteers of America said food banks and resource centers have seen an increase in customers:

  • Everett Food Bank saw a 55 percent increase in people served.
  • Sultan Food Bank saw a 30 percent increase in people served.
  • Arlington Resource Center saw a 30 percent increase in new families served and a 50 percent increase in returning customers.

Nourish Pierce County services 21 food banks. The organization’s website said 66,000 residents total were served in 2019. Directors further stated the number could double in just a matter of weeks as more people lose work and schools remain closed during the outbreak.

MSC volunteers said this is the time when their downtime can make all the difference. They are encouraging others to do the same in their communities.

“There’s a huge need and there’s a variety of jobs that you can do. So, there’s an easy way to fit what you can do with the different needs of the food bank,” said Sue Stockman, a MSC Food Bank volunteer.

Some food banks said monetary donations have been steady. However, their staff said it has been difficult to purchase groceries to keep the shelves stocked because inventory at some stores is so low. For those who are willing to give, Lancaster said he is encouraging them to provide food donations to help serve those in need.

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