As the Tri-Cities Food Bank prepares to open in West Richland, its executive director is feeling especially blessed.
Bill Kitchen found the perfect temporary spot for a food bank — the 2,400-square-foot former Paradise Tanning Salon, next to a bus stop at 4096 W. Van Giesen St.
The food bank scrambled to find a place to serve West Richland families this fall after its original plans fell through.
It had hoped to open at the West Richland Senior Center in October, but Kitchen said it was forced to abandon that plans because the center’s power system couldn’t handle the refrigerators and freezers it needs to operate.
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It scouted for a new spot and landed on the salon space in a nearby strip mall.
The landlord agreed to a six-month lease, enough time for food bank administrators to assess if the need in West Richland warrants a permanent post in the Tri-Cities’ fourth city. If busy enough, the food bank may consider constructing its own building, he said.
West Richland Mayor Brent Gerry said the city was pleased to help the food bank make the connection and stands ready to help make its presence permanent.
“We’re glad to have them,” he said.
The food bank turned its attention to West Richland when it realized the city’s residents were visiting the Richland branch on Wellsian Way. Test runs in 2015 and 2016 confirmed what he suspected.
We believe as many as 500 or more families in and around West Richland are in need of the emergency supplemental food supplies we offer.
Bill Kitchen, executive director
“We believe as many as 500 or more families in and around West Richland are in need of the emergency supplemental food supplies we offer,” he said.
A sizable number of children who attend West Richland schools are eligible for free or reduced-prices lunches, including nearly 48 percent of students at Tapteal Elementary, 19 percent at William Wiley Elementary and 20 percent at Enterprise Middle School.
The average for Richland schools is 34 percent and statewide it is 44 percent.
The West Richland Food Bank will be open from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursdays and from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays beginning Jan. 12.
The Tri-Cities Food Bank has a warehouse and operations building in Kennewick with branches in Kennewick and Benton City.
It draws on contributions from the local community, as well as regional suppliers such as Second Harvest and Northwest Harvest.
The Kennewick School District’s annual food drive recently yielded nearly 34,000 pounds of food, an all-time record for the local system.
“We are just really blessed this season,” Kitchen said.
While donations of food are always welcome, Kitchen said cash gifts go further thanks to its institutional buying power.