Western Washington Gets Real: How the Bonney Lake Food Bank is addressing food insecurity

BONNEY LAKE, Wash. — Millions of Americans are struggling with food insecurity every day.

According to Feeding America, 49 million people turned to food assistance programs for help in 2022.

In Washington, one in 11 people face hunger. At The Market by the Bonney Lake Food Bank, those facing food insecurity can feel more secure about where they buy their groceries.

“I think part of our plan is to try and reinvent what food insecurity could look like. It’s to provide health and wellness, and the reality is one and eight Americans are experiencing food insecurity, but they also do not have the ability to afford their own good health,” said CEO Stacey Crinch.

There is often a stigma associated with food assistance programs and the people who need them most. While 34 million people in the United States are food insecure, a staggering nine million are just children.

With dignity and community in mind, little touches here and there make all the difference for customers.

“All of our members have an ID card so that the next time they visit, and this is part of the dignity, all it takes is a really quick scan. You don’t have to say your name in front of your children. Children know that if you go to the local grocery store, you’re not saying your name at the door, so this is something that is just as like Costco going in and having a really quick scan,” said Crinch.

Stacy says her goal for this market is to create something that feels like any other luxury or boutique market experience. In her mind, customers shouldn’t have to constantly be reminded that they are in a food bank.

“We hear moms say that their kids ask them to go to the really fancy grocery store this week,” said Crinch.

After getting your membership card, shoppers can grab their cart and go.

“They grab as they need,” said Crinch adding that there will be weekly specials.

Thanks to grants provided by Washington’s Department of Agriculture, the food bank is able to purchase much of their fish, produce, and meat from local farmers.

Additionally, located about 20 feet next to the market is Mom’s Micro Garden and Urban Farm where you will find greens that are packaged in-house.

“With the help of the market, we have utilized some WSDA funding to grow microgreens for people who would otherwise not be able to purchase them,” said Patrick Brown with Mom’s Micro Garden.

The local farmers’ partnership with The Market has proven mutually beneficial for both organizations.

“Through diversifying to the grocers in the food security clients, we realize that we do a lot more good that way too,” said Brown.

Closing the gap between the food you would find at the food bank compared to a five-star restaurant is the organization’s main goal.

“In East Pierce, it’s a rural transportation desert, as well as a food desert, and so we really thought about what could we do that created access 24/7 while allowing somebody to pick up refrigerated groceries after workplace the orders and the lockers,” said Crinch.

Many customers work several jobs making it difficult to shop during the week. That is why the foodbank works to serve up to 60 families per day, even on the weekends. Some of these good are distributed through food lockers.

“We often don’t think of convenience and dignity, and how intertwined they are. I spoke a lot about our intentions, which was saying, “I see you; you’re worthy of convenience,” said Crinch.