The shelves of the Tri-Cities Food Banks aren't bare, but there are gaps where canned food normally would be.
The food banks in Kennewick, Richland and Benton City just aren't getting donations of staples such as canned vegetables and soup.
With the food donated around the holiday already eaten by hungry area families, John Neill, Tri-Cities Food Banks executive director, said the organization is buying a lot of food.
But the nonprofit lacks the cash reserves to continue buying food for long without running into problems.
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Neill said he is starting to get nervous. That money comes from the same pot as does buying gas for daily food pickups. And gas prices are rising.
"The demand has just not slowed down a bit," Neill said.
That is unusual, he said, since normally there is a dip in need after the holidays. The Tri-Cities Food Banks are helping about 1,000 families a week.
Need is "extreme," and donations just aren't keeping pace, said Kathye Kilgore, executive director of Second Harvest Tri-Cities, which acts as the food bank to area food banks.
Food banks are reporting an increase in families asking for help. Some are up 5 percent to 10 percent, while others are seeing a demand of up to 40 percent, Kilgore said.
But what she said they are hearing is that some people are having to consider their own families first. They are at risk of having to go to the food bank themselves. It's a transition from holiday giving to grim reality, Kilgore said.
"But for the grace of God, there go I," she said.
That is why the community needs to help take care of each other, Kilgore said.
And Second Harvest Tri-Cities can get more bang for a buck than most area residents. Each dollar buys four adult meals or 6 pounds of food, Kilgore said.
Other food banks in Benton and Franklin counties report a similar lack of staples, everything from canned fruit and juice to cereal.
But at Golden Age Food Share in Pasco, Anne Montgomery, the food bank's director and founder, said the food bank doesn't have the dollars to buy food.
So the seniors she serves are doing without, she said. They understand that people can only give so much.
"We are OK right now," Montgomery said.
Area churches still are helping, and Northwest Harvest in Yakima brings in food once a month, Montgomery said.
At the same time, they are seeing new seniors coming in for help, she said. Each week, they are helping about 450 senior families.
Families are coming in more often for help at Pasco's St. Vincent de Paul Society Food Bank. Sina Pierret, the society's executive director and food bank manager, said about 28 percent of the 2,200 families they are helping in a month are coming each week instead of monthly.
That is more than normal, she said. The 2,200 families include about 5,400 children, about 300 seniors and almost 3,900 adults.
And the number of food boxes is up, with about 740 being given to families each week and a total of 148,000 to 150,000 pounds of food given each month on average, Pierret said. Each food box is about 50 to 65 pounds of foods.
Pierret said she recently had to buy a pallet each of green beans and peas because of a lack of staples. They also are in need of beans and rice.
And Pasco Community Service Food Bank also can't afford to buy staples. That means giving out food that is lower in protein, such as macaroni and cheese.
But LeEllen Bradshaw, the food bank's director, said she has been going shopping, buying food and donating it herself to help fill some of the gaps.
And need is up, with more than 1,000 people being helped a month, Bradshaw said.
The food bank is seeing a lot of single parents, more seniors and multi-generational families seeking help, Bradshaw said.
"Everybody needs food," she said.
Tri-Cities Food Banks are seeing more seniors, unemployed and underemployed workers and college students, Neill said. With skyrocketing tuition, he expects to see more students asking for help.
There are few food drives right now. Neill said the Boy Scouts just finished one that amounted to about 1,000 pounds. But that doesn't last for long.
"We are still feeding everybody, and we will feed everybody," he said.
* Golden Age Food Share: dropped off at 504 S. Oregon Ave. in Pasco, or mailed to P.O. Box 4467, Pasco, 99301.
* Second Harvest Tri-Cities: Second Harvest Tri-Cities, www.2-harvest.org, P.O. Box 6166, Kennewick, 99336, or call 585-3924.
* Pasco Community Service Food Bank: Seventh-day Adventist Community Services at 605 Road 36, Pasco 99301.
* St. Vincent de Paul Society, P.O. Box 4273, Pasco, 99302; say the donation is for the food bank.
* Tri-Cities Food Banks: Kennewick Food Bank, 420 Deschutes Ave., Kennewick, 99336; Richland Food Bank, 321 Wellsian Way, Richland, 99352; Benton City Food Bank, 712 10th St., Benton City, 99320.