The community comes together once again to help provide up to 2,000 meals this week through the Family Holiday Meal Bag Distribution day.
Community groups, churches, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and others are involved with the pre-Thanksgiving event set for 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, culminating at Carrie Blake Community Park.
“It’s an absolute community effort,” said Andra Smith, Sequim Food Bank executive director.
Sign-in begins at Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave., before drivers are directed along Blake Avenue into the park’s Water Reuse Demonstration Site and Albert Haller Playfields.
Last year’s event provided about 1,725 meal bags, including deliveries to Sequim homes, organizers said.
Smith said the food bank is planning for 2,000 families for both the Nov. 18 and Dec. 16 events because of an increase in demand at its facility at 144 W. Alder St.
Comparing October’s total families served in 2021 and 2022, Smith said there’s been a 90 percent increase (661 families to 1,257).
“That’s more than 3,000 people being helped (in Oct. 2022),” she said. “That’s a scary number.”
She said everyone has seen an impact as federal and state funding from the COVID-19 pandemic has been reduced or cut, including for food banks.
For the Sequim Food Bank, numbers were trending down until about March 2022, when the most recent increase began, she said.
Referencing her correspondence with the Washington State Department of Agriculture, Smith said their officials plan to request increased funding from the state this biennium 2023-25, but it’s unknown if that will happen.
State Department of Agriculture officials anticipate pre-pandemic level funding levels, she said.
During the pandemic, Clallam County’s Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) received about $123,000, with Sequim Food Bank receiving about $25,700, according to state documents. Prior to the pandemic, Clallam County received about $74,348 — with the Sequim Food Bank receiving about $10,000 of that — in 2019.
The Sequim Food Bank and partner agencies are also paying more for shipping and food in general, like everyone else, Smith said.
“The effects of COVID will be with us for a long time,” she said. “We may not have to wear a mask or show our vaccine cards, but things cost more, and the funding is not there anymore.
“People who spent their savings to get through the pandemic, now they’re struggling, along with people on fixed incomes.”
Along with distribution days three days a week, the food bank continues to provide Weekend Meal Bags for Kids for about 250 children each Friday at Sequim schools and at the facility.
Smith implores anyone to come to the Sequim Food Bank and/or the Holiday Meal distribution days.
“When things are so expensive, come here, use our services, so you can pay that bill or get that tank of gas to go to work,” she said.
“It’s as simple as that. The hardest part is making the first step to get in line.”
For those looking to support the food bank, Smith said, financial support is key.
“We know from past needs assessments that when times get tight, families will not spend money on more expensive items that are more nutritious (i.e, fresh produce, meat, milk and eggs),” Smith said.
“If we’re helping 300 families a week; that’s 300 gallons of milk a week, 300 packages of meat (and so on). That’s a lot and we are committed to making sure we can have that balance of food. It’s important.”
Community members continue to support the Food Bank in various ways, including the Soupstock benefit concert on Nov. 11, multiple showings of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Sequim High School, the Boo Hunger food drive, the Interact Club’s blanket drive, Windermere offices collecting food, and many other efforts.
To make a donation online, visit sequimfoodbank.org; mail to: “Sequim Food Bank, P.O. Box 1453, Sequim WA, 98382.” Or, drop off a donation with staff at 144 W. Alder St.
The Sequim Food Bank is open 1-4 p.m. Mondays, and 9 a.m.-noon Fridays and Saturdays. It is closed Nov. 25-26 and re-opens Monday, Nov. 28. For more information, call 360-683-1205.
Family Holiday Meal Bag Distribution
When: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18
Where: Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave., (check-in); Carrie Blake Community Park (pick-up)
Note: A second Holiday meal bag set for 11a.m.-2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16