Andra Smith, executive director of the Sequim Food Bank, left, and volunteer Isabelle Dunlop prep some donations from River Run Farm last week. The facility is readying to begin accepting community donations again after 18 months due to Covid-19 precautions and storage issues. Organizers specifically seek low sodium soups, low sugar cereal, macaroni and cheese, and condiments. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Andra Smith, executive director of the Sequim Food Bank, left, and volunteer Isabelle Dunlop prep some donations from River Run Farm last week. The facility is readying to begin accepting community donations again after 18 months due to Covid-19 precautions and storage issues. Organizers specifically seek low sodium soups, low sugar cereal, macaroni and cheese, and condiments. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Sequim Food Bank open to donations, but seeking specific items

Certain soups, cereals, condiments and more sought

To help mitigate some COVID-19 concerns in recent months, leaders with the Sequim Food Bank switched some food distribution practices. This month, they plan to once again receive community donations to the facility at 144 Alder St.

The accepting of food and products makes up a significant portion of the food the organization distributes, food bank executive director Andra Smith said.

“Pre-Covid, 75 percent of our food was from donations including food and items from the community, emergency food partners and food rescue programs,” she said.

Demand rose significantly at the beginning of the pandemic, with many residents being out of work or working less hours, so the food bank and multiple community partners increased offerings — including distribution efforts such as the COVID Relief Food Care Package program.

About 500 boxes of food were distributed each session at Sequim High School, and later at Trinity United Methodist Church/Carrie Blake Community Park, on a weekly basis from June-September 2020, twice a month October 2020-March 2021, and once a month April-June.

With so much food coming in, Smith said they had to make room, so the food bank purchased one trailer and rented another.

“We were already close to capacity with dry and cold storage pre-Covid, and then we bought one trailer and rented another and we’re still close to capacity,” Smith said.

She said food bank leaders opted at first during the pandemic to stop community donations for health and safety reasons, but then it became a space issue for storage and sorting items.

“It was a hard decision because we relied so much on the community for in-kind donations,” Smith said.

Demand for the food bank has grown in the last month, she said, which is a trend statewide.

What’s needed?

Smith said they’ve slowly brought back some community donations such as fresh garden and farm produce, along with feminine and baby products.

“We started working in July on inventory to make space to do community donations again,” she said.

With limited space, and an abundance of certain items, Smith said they currently seek the following:

• low-sodium soups

• low-sugar cereal boxes

• macaroni and cheese boxes

• various condiments (ketchup, mayonnaise, salad dressings, etc.)

Unlike past food drives, Smith said they aren’t seeking peanut butter or tuna cans, as they have a surplus.

“We don’t have unlimited space like we used to in the past,” she said. “It’s a delicate dance to make.”

The food bank is also seeing many visitors with food-related health needs that require more expensive, specialized foods, so Smith is asking donors to consider low sugar, low salt, gluten free, organic and/or other healthier specialized foods.

Needs will change, she said, so for updated lists of needed foods, call the food bank at 360-683-1205, or visit the facility’s Facebook page at facebook.com/sequimfoodbank.

Holiday plans

This month, the food bank plans to partner with Sequim High School for the Boo Hunger campaign. Students will place about 700 donation bags at homes in Sequim on Oct. 22 and pick them up between 3:30-5:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 29, food bank leaders said.

Plans are still forming for the facility’s Thanksgiving and Christmas meal distribution.

Last year, community organizations partnered to offer a one-day meal pickup at Carrie Blake Community Park for both holidays.

Smith said they plan to give $15 Walmart gift cards for turkeys on Thanksgiving along with a box of traditional holiday meals. For Christmas, boxes will include some holiday foods and a standard assortment of foods, she said. Days and location will be determined at a future date.

For now, the Sequim Food Bank remains drive-through only. The Sequim Food Bank is open 1-4 p.m. on Mondays, and 9 a.m.-noon on Fridays and Saturdays.

Storage remains minimal at the Sequim Food Bank, says executive director Andra Smith, but staff have started planning since July to make room for community donations. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Storage remains minimal at the Sequim Food Bank, says executive director Andra Smith, but staff have started planning since July to make room for community donations. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

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