With an increase in Clallam County’s jobless rate to 12.1 percent at the end of July and a waiting period for more federal unemployment relief, locals are feeling a greater need for necessities.
From March to the end of July, the Sequim Food Bank has seen its visitations increase 174 percent, food bank executive director Andra Smith reported.
The COVID Relief Food Care Package program also continues to see around 500 families each Wednesday, too. It switched locations in recent weeks from Sequim High School to Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave. It’s open from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
“Right now, a lot of support is going into the food system to make sure food is available, but I don’t think this is ending soon,” Smith said.
At the food bank, 144 W. Alder St., staff purchased one trailer and rented another to keep hundreds of boxes of food cold for its three days of operations and the Wednesday program.
While Food Care Package boxes are provided by Food Lifeline and Farm to Family, Smith said the food bank’s costs have grown exponentially for storage, utilities and more.
However, food bank leaders say they are committed to keep the effort going.
“The Wednesday program is so important,” Smith said. “It’s providing a place for people who may have never used the food bank before.”
The program has helped more than 520 Sequim-area families this summer, assisting another 460 on Aug. 26. It started on June 3 and operated for 12 weeks funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.
“Every week it was increasing in numbers,” Smith said.
Volunteers with the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), the food bank and local nonprofits and churches continue to help each Wednesday.
Make it work
Food for the Wednesday program comes into the Port Angeles Food Bank, so Sequim Food Bank staff must make at least three trips on Tuesdays and Thursdays each day to pick up the pallets of food.
Smith said that in the past her staff would travel to Port Angeles once a week for food deliveries.
The allocated boxes haven’t been enough for Sequim’s high demand, Smith said. To make up the difference, staff check with other agencies such as Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP) in Jefferson County.
“Sometimes it’s a lot of scrambling prior to Wednesdays to find enough,” she said.
Visitors who come to Trinity United Methodist Church on Wednesdays can receive two boxes — one perishable with dairy, protein and produce items, the other nonperishable with dried goods.
More boxes are circulated at the Sequim Food Bank too, with additional items as they’re available.
Smith said the community has been “awesome” during the COVID-19 pandemic, with support coming from multiple avenues including gleaning programs, farmers, the United Way of Clallam County, government agencies, local groups and churches and many more.
“We get asked all the time, ‘What do you need? What do you need?’ And they help,” Smith said.
The Sequim Food Bank is not accepting food donations at this time because of space and volunteer limitations. Fiscal donations are accepted through its website at www.sequimfoodbank.org.
The food bank also continuing its year-round Weekend Meal Bag program for at least 100 children in Sequim School District, Smith said.
The Sequim Food Bank, 144 W. Alder St., is open 1-4 p.m. Mondays, and 9 a.m.-noon Fridays and Saturdays.
The COVID Relief Food Care Package program continues through at least September from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesdays at Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave. Start at the south entrance of the church for directions.