Tri-City food banks welcome more donations

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldNovember 12, 2012 

Ann Montgomery stood in the warehouse at Golden Age Food Share in Pasco, next to shopping carts filled with plastic bags and Sunny Delight.

Boxes packed with tomatoes and lettuce were lined up nearby, and volunteers hauled in crate after crate of donated bread.

"Where do you want this, Ann?" a man asked Montgomery as he wheeled a pallet stacked high with bread into the warehouse Monday.

Montgomery pointed him to a spot in the corner.

The food program on South Oregon Avenue primarily serves low-income seniors. And like other food banks in the Tri-Cities, volunteers there are bracing for a busy holiday season.

Officials from some local food banks reported donations to their programs are fairly static or are down a bit this year, yet they expect to see high demand during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

"We're holding our own, but you could always use more," said Montgomery, coordinator of the Golden Age program. "Demand is up."

Montgomery's group provides food to about 400 to 425 senior families a week -- loading them up with produce, packaged food and staples such as flour. She expects more seniors to approach her group for help during the holidays and said holiday staples such as turkeys and cranberry sauce are needed.

Tri-Cities Food Bank, with locations in Kennewick, Richland and Benton City, also has the same need. Executive Director John Neill said his agency is seeing items come in through food drives and is drawing about as much as last year. But it could use turkeys, hams, cranberry sauce and other holiday favorites to distribute, he said.

The agency's Kennewick and Richland locations are the busiest, drawing more than 500 people each weekday between them, Neill said. Those numbers could double in the days before Thanksgiving and Christmas, he said.

The food bank has seen demand grow by 20 percent annually the last couple of years, Neill said, citing "the economy and everything that falls under it."

"Things are a lot more expensive these days," he said.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society food bank in Pasco distributes about 650 boxes of food a week. Last Christmas, the number swelled to more than 800 -- and Sina Pierret, president and food bank manager, said she anticipates the same trend this year.

"In the winter, people are paying more for heat. What money (people) have, they're trying to spread out to pay rent, utilities, put gas in the car," she said.

People who've lost their jobs aren't the only ones seeking food help, local food bank officials say. Senior citizens on fixed incomes, students and the "under-employed" who have jobs but don't earn enough to make ends meet also are turning up for help, they said.

Anet Medina of the Salvation Army said her group's Pasco food bank is seeing an uptick in food donations over last year. She estimates the food bank serves close to 300 families a month. She said it also could use donations of turkey and holiday other fare this time of year.

Meanwhile, an agency that provides food to food banks in the region recently moved into a new facility that will allow it to hold and distribute more goods. Rod Wieber, Second Harvest chief resource officer, said his agency distributed about 5.5 million pounds of food last year out of its former leased facility Kennewick.

The new distribution center on Burlington Loop in Pasco has more cold storage and is about three times larger. Second Harvest unveiled the new center in September.

Wieber said several food drives are under way for Second Harvest. It's too early to say how donations will compare to last year, he said.

How to help

Tri-City area food banks expect increased demand for food help during the holidays. Officials from some local agencies said they're in need of holiday food staples such as turkey, ham and cranberry sauce.

Here's contact information:

-- Tri-Cities Food Bank, www.tricitiesfoodbank.org.

-- Salvation Army in Pasco, 547-2138.

-- Golden Age Food Share in Pasco, 547-8310.

-- St. Vincent de Paul Society in Pasco, 544-9315.

-- Second Harvest in Pasco, 545-0787

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