New food bank director feels ‘calling’ for job

Smith plans to grow healthy options, backpack program

Following the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, the Sequim Food Bank will transition to new leadership in 2016.

Current executive director Mark Ozias begins his newly elected role as a Clallam County commissioner in January so food bank bookkeeper Andra Smith accepted the role, which starts Jan. 1.

Smith said taking the job, which helps distribute about 1 million pounds of food annually to in-need Sequim residents, was something she “needed to do.”

“The food bank is part of who I am,” she said. “It’s more of a calling to come here.”

For the past year, she’s split her time as the administrative assistant at the Dungeness Valley Lutheran Church and the food bank, where she’s been the bookkeeper for four years.

Board members like president Stephen Rosales and Ozias encouraged her to consider the job.

“She has a lot of compassion and is well-organized, which is important for an organization like this,” Rosales said.

Smith said she enjoyed her position at the church but realized she still could serve there in other ways. She moved to Sequim nine years ago in December with her husband Craig, now controller of Price Ford, and two daughters, Mollie, 21, and Samantha, 15, from Texas. Smith said formerly she was a Subway franchisee, UPS store owner and worked for her family’s petroleum wholesale/retail business.

Her daughter Mollie was one of the original “Fantastic Four” children for the Sequim Food Bank that pioneered teens leading services on Saturdays.

Smith has helped coordinated multiple food drives/fundraisers for the food bank, too, including peanut butter drives. “I’ve seen first hand how giving this community is,” she said. “It’s amazing to see what can happen.”

Ozias’ outro

Ozias began as executive director at the food bank in June 2013 following Rosales serving as interim director.

In his 2½ years at the food bank, Ozias said he’s proud of multiple efforts including growing the volunteer program from 12 volunteers to about 40-50 each week, not including teens, building relationships with community organizations and encouraging healthier eating by offering more fruit and vegetables.

Ozias also partnered with Olympic Peninsula food banks to form the Clallam County Food Bank Coalition about a year ago.

Smith is excited to continue Ozias’ partnerships such as with the Dungeness Valley Health & Wellness Clinic which encourages children and families to eat healthier with the 5-2-1-0 program — five fruits and vegetables a day, two or fewer hours of screen time a day, 1 hour of exercise and no sugar added beverages.

She also looks forward to meeting more with volunteers and said she left a recent volunteer luncheon feeling great from their energy.

Food bank services

This week, the food bank wrapped up its holiday baskets program. For Thanksgiving, volunteers provided about 900 baskets, which is about 50 more than in 2014, Rosales estimates.

Annually, the food bank operates on about $200,000 in monetary donations along with about $650,000 of in-kind food donations from several organizations.

Ozias said Sequim’s Walmart last year provided 49 percent of in-kind food donations but this year they received more support from Northwest Harvest, a statewide hunger support program, and other agencies.

The food bank purchases milk, eggs, margarine, potatoes and sometimes bread if not enough is donated, Rosales said. All other vegetables and fruit come in by donation.

The food bank continues its weekly backpack program providing weekend meals for 130 children among the two Sequim elementary schools, Boys & Girls Club and Sequim Middle school.

It continues through winter break as children or their parents/guardians can receive their weekly packs from the Sequim Boys & Girls Club.

Ozias said each backpack set of meals costs $6 and will cost in total about $40,000 annually if they expand the offering into Sequim High School.

Along with continuing and expanding programs, Smith says she has one big idea that sticks out as a dream goal — establishing a food bank farm or garden to educate people on cultivating their own food.

“I’ve read that when children grow their own vegetables, they are likely to eat it more,” she said.

In the coming year, the food bank continues to seek financial donations for the backpack program and ongoing staples of peanut butter, rice, tuna, cans of soup, macaroni and cheese, pasta and pasta sauce.

The Sequim Food Bank, 144 W. Alder St., is open 1-4 p.m. Mondays and 9 a.m.-noon Fridays and Saturdays with children leading services on Saturdays. Call 683-1205.