Orcas Island Food Bank quoted in national publication

Submitted by the Orcas Island Food Bank.

Free food can be life changing for people struggling to meet the rising cost of food, housing, gas, medical care and other necessities. For example, on a typical weekly visit to the Orcas Island food bank, a family of two saves $106; a family of four saves $150. Yet here and across the United States, many people who are entitled to nutritional assistance do not seek it.

Income guidelines for the emergency food aid program

• Household size of 1: annual income of $51,520

• Household size of 2: annual income of $69,680

• Household size of 3: annual income of $87,840

• Household size of 4: annual income of $106,000

Add $18,160 for each additional family member.

In 2021, the Connecticut Foodshare Institute for Hunger Research and Solutions surveyed 1,000 people about their concerns about going to a food pantry. Respondents gave several reasons: 69% said they “wanted to support themselves”, 49% were concerned that they had too many assets to qualify, 48% did not know the hours of the food pantry , 48% were “too embarrassed” to use a food. pantry, and 40% worried that “others would find out”.

In April 2022, an article in Food Bank News explored how food pantries are helping potential customers overcome these obstacles. Food Bank News is a national online publication dedicated to “advancing best practices in the fight against hunger”. The article, by Ambreen Ali, described the work of two pantries: Feeding Tampa Bay (Florida) and Orcas Island Food Bank.

A word on food assistance terminology

A “pantry” is an organization that directly serves customers. A “food bank” is a warehouse that collects large amounts of food from supermarkets, government agencies, and other sources and distributes it to entities such as food pantries, schools, senior centers, low-income housing agencies and on-site meals. wheel programs. To confuse the issue, many pantries, including OIFB, call themselves “food banks.”

For the OIFB, according to the article, making customers feel welcome starts with treating them with dignity and respect and “feeding people what they really want to eat.” The OIFB “has been focused in recent years on providing more fresh food to the community and presenting it in an inviting way”. The OIFB also “places advertisements in the local newspaper which emphasize that its doors are open to all and that no paperwork is required to receive food. The message is designed to reframe the concept of food aid as a matter of food justice, rather than a handout.

The article ended with a quote from OIFB Executive Director Amanda Sparks, “Dignity is defined when all demographic groups in our community who need food can see themselves and their families represented on shelves.”

To this end, the OIFB stocks proteins for vegetarians, gluten-free products and foods for people with lactose intolerance. OIFB also has two Spanish-speaking staff members, stocks foods that our island’s Latino/Hispanic residents are used to eating, and recently added Hispanic ready meals to go.

Another new program, Meal Kits, was launched in May. OIFB has partnered with a few other food pantries and the Washington State Department of Agriculture to create a 3-month pilot program. Each month, 200 meal kits are assembled and distributed. A kit includes all the ingredients for a healthy meal. Six different kits help OIFB customers learn new ways to enjoy food through culturally diverse recipes and cooking techniques.

Jacob L. Thornton