‘There are more people than ever’: Washington food banks scramble to provide for families

The need for food banks across western Washington is greater than ever.

According to Food Lifeline, food bank visits have increased by 63% this year with 1.6 million families and individuals finding themselves facing food insecurity. But, with increasing needs has come a steep decrease in donations.

“For years, the vast majority of the food we’ve distributed has been donated. Today, we are budgeting millions of dollars toward food purchases to keep our partners supplied with the foods they need. It’s just not a sustainable model,” said Ryan Scott, Chief Development Officer at Food Lifeline.

While Food Lifeline said they are “scrambling” to provide food to over 400 distribution sites across Western Washington, KIRO 7 visited a food bank in unincorporated Pierce County to hear about some of the impacts being felt in a “food desert.”

“Right now there are more people than ever. In fact, in the last 60 days, we have grown by over 700 brand-new families to food insecurity. Those are working-class people trying to keep their home, keep their car, making very hard choices to make it all work,” said CEO of the Bonney Lake Food Bank, Stacey Crnich.

The Bonney Lake Food Bank is nestled just off State Route 410 in between Bonney Lake and Buckley. On average, they serve 200 families and individuals per day, but the additional 40% increase in the last 60 days is expected to push that number closer to almost 250.

“We really want people to feel supported in their community and not feel stigma and shame around needing food resources,” said Crnich.

Bonney Lake Food Bank told KIRO 7 that in regard to donations and the food supply chain, they rely on the circular economy they’ve created with local farmers using grants from the Department of Agriculture.

They also work with the community to “activate” help in the form of single food drives as needed, and with state-of-the-art technology, like refrigerated lockers, they can create a more efficient and accessible means for people to grab their food no matter what their situation may be.