More Whidbey Island families seek food bank help

Oak Harbor resident Christy Barney stocks cans of food at the North Whidbey Help House warehouse on Southeast Hathaway Street.  - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor resident Christy Barney stocks cans of food at the North Whidbey Help House warehouse on Southeast Hathaway Street.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

Take some time as the holidays approach to make sure all families on Whidbey Island have enough to eat.

The two food banks on North and Central Whidbey Island, Help House and Gifts from the Heart, are busy collecting food and dispersing it to increasing numbers of families showing up each week seeking help.

After seeing a 9 percent reduction in food donations in 2010 over 2009, Help House Executive Director Jean Wieman said more food has been coming through the food bank doors thanks to the efforts of many, including the Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and members of the North Whidbey Firefighters Association, each of which recently completed successful food drives.

It’s about more than just Thanksgiving and Christmas. The influx of food items are needed to get Help House through the first part of the year, when the number of donations decline.

It’s been a busy month for local food banks in one of the worse economies since the Great Depression. Halfway through November, Help House has already given out 469 food baskets this year, which is nearly the same amount as the 470 baskets given out in all of November 2009.

Volunteers last month doled out 609 food baskets, which helped feed 1,600 North Whidbey residents, Weiman said.

She added that two to three new families a day arrive to sign up to receive food baskets.

North Whidbey Help House hands out food during the week. Folks can receive a food basket one time a month and can stop by for fresh produce two times a week.

Even with the higher numbers of people visiting North Whidbey Help House, volunteers have avoided turning people away.

“We haven’t run out,” Weiman said.

Gifts from the Heart, which serves Central Whidbey Island, is also seeing more families in need of food.

Molly Hughes, an organizer for Gifts from the Heart, said 132 families showed up the fourth Wednesday in October between the food bank’s Coupeville and Greenbank locations.

Gifts from the Heart is receiving help from Coupeville schools. The elementary school collected 500 food items while high school students collected 4,800. The food drive ended Nov. 19. Hughes said students stood outside local supermarkets collecting food from charitable shoppers.

She noted the winner of the Coupeville Lions Club’s annual shopping spree decided to donate the items to the food bank. Coupeville resident Dr. Helene Lhemon donated a three-minute shopping spree at Prairie Center where volunteers ended up collecting $611 worth of food. Hughes said it was the third time the shopping spree winner donated winnings to Gift from the Heart.

Volunteers at Central Whidbey are expecting nearly 170 families will need Thanksgiving baskets. To help gather Thanksgiving-type food, shoppers can pay for a Thanksgiving meal, which includes a turkey, ham and potatoes. In addition several high school students who work for Serendipity Catering will be peeling and mashing 250 pounds of potatoes for needy families during the holidays.

Gifts from the Hearts distributes food the second and fourth Wednesday of the month from the Coupeville Boys and Girls Club on North Main Street and the Greenbank Progressive Club at the corner of Bakken and Firehouse roads.

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