A man who recently walked into Bremerton Foodline, one of many food banks in Western Washington, left an impression on director Kim Faulkner.
“There was an older gentleman in my lobby looking for food,” Faulkner said. “I went out and talked to him and he was embarrassed to be here, to ask for food. He had a lot of pride. He never had a need to ask for assistance before.”
“He was an older gentleman on a limited income and his landlord increased his rent by $100 a month,” she said. “To him, that’s a lot. He had a lot of pride because his whole life he has been able to take care of himself. But now he needs assistance. And when your rent goes up $100, and you’re living on a fixed income, you’re living right on the edge, something is going to give.”
Faulkner notes similar stories with young mothers in her area, needing food.
There’s a problem, however. Local food banks are reporting that donations have been declining and many are in dire need of food.
About 20 percent of the people Bremerton Foodline serves are under the age of 18, and another 20 percent are age 55 and older. Faulkner senses that the need among the elderly in her community will rise soon. Part of the issue, she said, is that Bremerton is in a state of revitalization, and that has driven living costs up for some.
Low donations to local food banks
The Renton Reporter reports that the Salvation Army Renton Rotary Food Bank was not able to keep up with demand for Thanksgiving food donations this year — they had a need for 600 turkeys, and they only had 300 a week before the holiday. Food donations, in general, have been declining, even during the holiday season when donations tend to spike.
The Reporter also notes the issue is similar to the local St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank, and others. Compounding the issue, volunteering seems to be down as well. That can harm financial donations, such as the holiday bell ringers, that the charities rely on.
The Seattle Times reports a similar story in Puyallup where the food bank there has received “uncharacteristically low” donations this time of year.
Other food banks in the region that MyNorthwest reached out to say that they are taking in the minimum of what they need. Others, not so much.
One of their primary sources of food donations at Bremerton Foodline has consistently gone down over the past few years. Food donations that come in via the postal service have been on the decline. Postal workers take donations left along their route and deliver them to the food bank. In 2010, the donations amounted to 52,004 pounds food. Since then, donations have decreased. So far in 2016, the food bank has taken in 27,140 pounds of food via the postal system.
“We work diligently with our post office and there are compassionate and want to help, but it takes the whole community to help,” Faulkner said. “Those carriers work above and beyond, they work extra hours and they don’t get paid for those extra hours.”
But if there is one thing Faulkner wants people to be aware of, it’s that despite the holiday giving season, the need for food banks exist all year long.
“Hunger is a year-long thing, and donations do spike toward the end of the year when people remember other people are in need,” she said. “But people are in need all year long. The demand is consistent.”
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