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Mid-Columbia food banks seeing fewer donations, more need

Diana Bastian's family of seven depends on the St. Vincent de Paul Society Food Bank to get through the month.

The 17-year-old Pasco High School senior says her parents, who work seasonally, buy food when they can, but it can be expensive -- especially meat.

Area food banks are having a harder time providing food to an increasing number of families like Bastian's. Many are low on canned food and staples -- donations that seem to dry up after the holidays.

"I need food," said Anne Montgomery, director and founder of Golden Age Food Share in Pasco. "I have no staples."

Donations of fresh fruit and vegetables are coming in, but not the canned food normally donated through food drives, she said.

Kathye Kilgore, Second Harvest Tri-Cities director, said she appreciates how the community goes all out during the holidays to support food banks.

But the need is year-round, she said.

Second Harvest's warehouse is getting fairly empty, she said. The nonprofit acts as a food bank to area food banks.

"We've got to find a way to help those that need our help," she said.

The Golden Age Food Share is serving 500 senior families a week now, which is 100 more than in January, Montgomery said.

"It's hard out there for everybody," she said.

The food bank needs juice, meat, other proteins and food items for seniors, or money to buy them, she said.

On Wednesday, the flow of families into the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank was steady. In five hours, 32,000 pounds of food was given to 573 families, said Linda Hermann, the society's secretary.

The food bank has served an increasing number of first-time families and others who haven't needed help for years. On Wednesday, 114 families were new, she said.

Four weeks ago, the number of families coming weekly jumped to more than 600 per week, which meant about 1,900 separate families received help from the food bank in July, some of whom came more than one time, she said.

Summer is particularly tough for families with children who receive free or reduced lunch and breakfast at school. Kilgore said many of those children depend on a bus to get to school, and so they can't use the school summer programs for food.

Some have lost jobs, or are no longer receiving unemployment, but still haven't found a job, said Sina Pierret, the society's president and food bank manager. And increasingly, families are moving in with each other.

The cost of food has gone up, making it more difficult for families who are already on tight budgets. And the costs have gone up for food banks as well, Pierret said.

When the food bank bought beans in 2,000-pound sets recently, the cost was $220 higher than it used to be, she said.

Most food St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank has now is from Second Harvest Tri-Cities and grocery stores, Pierret said. But grocery stores are cutting back on their waste, which means less for the food banks.

Pasco's St. Patrick's Catholic Parish has remained a strong supporter of the food bank, Pierret said. But other than that, few donations of canned food or money has been received since the holidays.

High need has led the St. Vincent de Paul to cut back on how much food each family gets, with boxes being reduced from 80 pounds to 55 pounds, Hermann said.

And the society's social services, such help with utilities and emergency shelter, will be cut back so more money is available to buy food, Pierret said.

Also, the federal Emergency Food and Shelter Program is being cut. If the food bank receives it at all this year, it could be about 40 percent less than previous years. Last year St. Vincent de Paul received about $13,000 to provide food and shelter to families in the county, Hermann said.

At the Tri-Cities Food Banks, the demand has stayed high since the holidays, which is unusual, said John Neill, the nonprofit's executive director. The Richland, Kennewick and Benton City food banks are helping about 750 families a week.

The Show & Shine Car Show resulted in $46,000 donated to the Tri-Cities Food Banks, which has really helped, Neill said. As did Battelle's recent soup drive.

But other cash donations and the typical garden produce from residents remains low, he said. The food banks are also low on frozen and refrigerated items.

"We are purchasing a lot of food right now because there are not a lot of food drives," he said.

The Pasco Community Service Food Bank is facing the same problem.

The food bank either needs to buy staples, or can't give families canned food, said LeEllen Bradshaw, the food bank's director.

"We never have enough money, and our needs are huge," she said.

The lack of canned food, especially vegetables, is worse than normal, she said. Donations of fresh fruits and vegetables have been coming in, but that's tenuous.

The Pasco Community Food Bank is serving up to 100 families a week, Bradshaw said. Many of the families the food bank normally helps have jobs on farms right now.

TO DONATE

* St. Vincent de Paul Society, 1120 W. Sylvester St., Pasco, 99301; note that 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.

* Pasco Community Service Food Bank: to Seventh-day Adventist Community Services, 605 Road 36, Pasco, 99301.

* Golden Age Food Share: dropped off at 504 S. Oregon Ave., Pasco; or mailed to P.O. Box 4467, Pasco, 99301.

* Second Harvest Tri-Cities: www.2-harvest.org, P.O. Box 6166, Kennewick, 99336; or call 585-3924.

TO GET FOOD

* St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank, 115 W. Lewis St., Pasco, open Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

* Tri-Cities Food Banks: Kennewick Food Bank, 420 Deschutes Ave., and Richland Food Bank, 321 Wellsian Way, open Monday through Friday from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Benton City Food Bank, 712 10th St., open Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 2 p.m., and Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m.

* Pasco Community Service Food Bank, at 605 Road 36 in Pasco on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

* Golden Age Food Share, 504 S. Oregon Ave., Pasco, on Monday through Thursday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon.

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