More and more families are turning to the Tri-Cities Food Bank for help getting by.
And community food drives -- like one under way now, put on by some automotive and RV dealerships and Yoke's Fresh Markets -- are a key part of helping meet the growing demand, said Bill Kitchen, food bank executive director.
"We certainly do appreciate -- more than that, count on -- these food drives to help us out," he said.
The Octoberfest Food Bank Food Drive will run throughout October. People can drop off nonperishable food items at the participating dealerships, including McCurley Integrity Dealership sites in the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla and Russ Dean Family RV in the Pasco Autoplex.
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The dealerships also are donating a portion of their sales to help the food banks, with the goal of exceeding last year's total of $33,615.
Yoke's Fresh Market shoppers can get into the act by buying a "Food Drive Food Bag."
The annual food drive, now in its 13th year, has brought in almost 370,000 pounds of food since it started.
"It's really our response in terms of how we can help and what we should do in the community," said John Inman, general manager of McCurley Integrity Honda in Richland and Mercedes-Benz of Tri-Cities in Kennewick. "We want to build responsible social networks and help maintain the quality of life we have here."
The food drive benefits the Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, Tri-City Union Gospel Mission, Golden Age Food Share and Tri-Cities Food Bank in the Tri-Cities, as well as Blue Mountain Action Council in Walla Walla.
Kitchen, from Tri-Cities Food Bank, which has locations in Richland, Kennewick and Benton City, said his organization has seen its client numbers grow by about 15 percent a year on average since 2011, with a particular bump this year.
The reason is hard to pinpoint, he said, although he noted the organization is seeing clients who have jobs but aren't making enough to sustain their families without some food assistance.
When it comes to community food drives, "They are so important to us, in keeping us afloat. The Tri-Cities community -- there is none better when it come to donations," he said.
-- Online: Tri-Cities Food Bank, www.tricitiesfoodbank.org.