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Food donations not keeping up with demand
BY STEVE DEDUAL
With donations down all over the city and the demand for food in the area up by at least 15 percent over last year, Bremerton area food banks are struggling to meet the demand.
Bremerton Foodline executive director Monica Bernhard said the problem isnt just a holiday issue, it is an economy problem.
The cost of living is growing faster than peoples paychecks, Bernhard said. Flat incomes along with high gas and electric costs are driving more and more people to a choice between food and lights. Our goal is to provide food so they dont need to make that choice.
This year, Bernhard said, the foodline will serve between 700 and 750 Thanksgiving baskets, which is 100 more than last year. It is also serving between 1,000 and 1,100 families each month, which is up from last years figures as well.
The drop in donations is making it more difficult for not just the foodline program, but for others in the area as well.
Denise Agee, coordinator of the assistance office and food bank for St. Vincent DePaul, said that they are feeling the crunch, too. Money that was collected for programs that are designed to help pay rent or electric bills had to be routed to the food program to get some of the things they needed, and it still wasnt enough.
We try to give families a nice holiday meal each year, but this year something is missing, Agee said. We ran out of things that we were able to give last year. We made substitutions, but it just wasnt the same.
St. Vincents gave out 410 of its holiday baskets on Nov. 19 and had some help from 13 sailors from the USS John C. Stennis.
They were our backs and legs, Agee said. Without our volunteers, especially those who have returned year after year for 19 years, we wouldnt make it.
Agee agreed that higher prices, especially for oil and gas, have been the cause of the demand increase and she wishes more politicians would come to see for themselves what is really going on.
They dont see what we see, Agee said. They need to come down and see the front lines.
If you are interested in collecting food, Bernhard has a suggestion of an easy way to do it.
Coordinate a food drive at work, school or in your community, she said. You can then bring all of the food down to our office.
Major Jim Baker, the corps officer for the local Salvation Army, said he saw the same trend.
Last year we served 85 families, Baker said. This year, we served 125.
Baker said that not only was there an increase in number, but family sizes seem to be larger this year as well.
While the national economy is responsible for most of the poverty issues, Baker said they see local layoffs at the shipyard having an effect as well.
People who work for contractors at the shipyard are laid off in between jobs, he said.
Anyone interested in donating food to the Salvation Army should call (360) 373-5550 first to find out what they are in need of.
While food donations are great, these organizations get very big discounts for bulk buying so they can get more food for their money than the average citizen. For this reason, cash donations go a lot further than food donations. With programs like the Bremerton Foodline, 96 percent of all money goes to funding the program and buying food so there is no worry whether or not your dollar is helping.
Donations can be made to the Bremerton Foodline at 1600 12th St., across from Bremerton High School from 10 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. Monday through Friday or to St. Vincent DePaul at 1137 N. Callow Ave.