The Lake Stevens Community Food Bank, directed
by Anne Anderson and made possible through the
efforts of about 100 volunteers, is doing its part to
help members of the Lake Stevens community. Each
month, approximately 100 families benefit from its fresh
produce and food items, and a typical month sees about
1,200 visitors. In order to better serve the community, the
Food Bank seeks to expand into a larger facility adjacent
to its current location.

Since 1978, the Food Bank has occupied a rented space in
Ebenezer Lutheran Church. Plans are in the works to build a
larger facility nearby on an already purchased plot of land. A
$900,000 capitol fundraising campaign is underway with just
over one-third of the fundraising goal achieved.

The Food Bank’s current space is cramped and lacks
running water and sufficient heating. It is not an accessible
space, which makes it a challenge for disabled clients to enter
the Food Bank. Volunteers often have to bring food outside
for them. There are also no bathrooms in the immediate area,
which forces volunteers to access the main part of the church.
Anderson constantly worries the Food Bank’s old fridge will
break down, but hesitates to replace the system as the new
location will likely require upgraded units.

The cramped aisles and lack of manpower means food
is distributed just once a week on Thursdays, which creates
long, three-hour wait lines. Anderson explained, “We do the
best we can with the space we have, but it’s just not enough
space.” She added, “We want to serve people with dignity
and respect and it’s hard to say you’re doing that when
clients are waiting outside for hours to come through such
a cramped area.”

Anderson recounted a story from last Thanksgiving when
she was forced to decline a generous donation of turkeys
because the donation meant that the Food Bank would need
to store the turkeys for several days. There simply wasn’t
fridge space for the turkeys. Instead, Anderson used money
from the Food Bank’s already limited budget to purchase
turkeys on Thanksgiving morning and distributed the birds
straight from the truck.

Most of the Food Bank’s clients visit only for a few
months, when they need to get though tough times: job loss,
high medical bills, a tough growing season. Once back on
their feet, many clients return as volunteers.

The website describes ways to volunteer, including truck
drivers, pantry stockers, and distributors. The Food Bank
especially needs drivers who can lift heavy boxes. No special
license is needed, just the ability and willingness to drive the
Food Bank’s truck. Distributors also tend to be sparse during
the second shift in the afternoons.

Food donations are always welcome. Local growers can
partake in a Plant a Row for the Hungry program where they
plant an extra row just for the Food Bank. Right now most of
the produce is donated by local grocery stores. The items are
often unfit for sale, so volunteers sift through boxes, peeling
back wilted lettuce leaves and separating overly ripe fruits.

Anderson works with other Food Bank directors in
Snohomish County through a coalition of 21 food banks.
They help each other with issues and pool their resources
together to obtain the most food for the cheapest cost.
Toiletries and cleaning supplies are the hardest items to secure
through government commodities and general donations. It’s
the items people purchase at grocery stores that aren’t food
and that food stamps don’t cover, such as shampoo, feminine
products, and surface cleaners.

Of course monetary donations are also accepted. There’s
a link on the Food Bank’s website to contribute towards the
building fund for the new facility. Anderson added that any
and all donations—time, food, money—are welcome. “I
want people to donate in the way they feel called to donate,”
she said. “We live in an incredibly generous community with
amazing people.”

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"We live in an incredibly generous community with amazing people."