Whidbey Island food banks filler larders for spring demand

Eric Mager, deputy director of the North Whidbey Help House, sorts food so the charity can be ready for families. - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Eric Mager, deputy director of the North Whidbey Help House, sorts food so the charity can be ready for families.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

More and more people are struggling to put food on the table and are looking toward Whidbey’s food banks for help.

For the third consecutive year, the Gifts from the Heart Food Bank saw an increase in the number of people seeking assistance.

Volunteers saw a 6 percent increase in the number of households served in 2010 and a 9 percent increase in the number of people receiving food.

“It feels like it’s a lot more than 6 percent,” Coupeville Town Councilwoman Molly Hughes during a recent Town Council meeting. She heads the food bank that serves Central Whidbey Island from Coupeville to Greenbank.

Hughes provided a list of statistics describing the activity of Gifts from the Heart food bank activity over the past year. More than 2,400 households comprising more than 7,000 people received more than 135,000 items of food.

Gifts from the Heart also had a positive presence during Thanksgiving and Christmas. On Thanksgiving, 166 families received a holiday meal and on Christmas, 149 families received a holiday meal.

Similar to Coupeville, Oak Harbor’s food bank, Help House of North Whidbey, has also seen an increase of the number of people receiving food.

Jean Wieman, Help House executive director, said workers saw a 6 percent increase in 2010 over 2009. More than 7,500 food baskets were dispersed last year as opposed to 7,085 in 2009. More than 20,000 people received food from Help House in 2010.

Despite the increase in the number of people needing food, community groups such as schools, churches and service organizations have been dedicated in collecting food.

“We’ve never, ever, ever had to turn anyone away,” Hughes said.

While the holiday season is marked with food drives that provides a boost for local charities, March and April mark the lowest inventory period for Gifts from the Heart, Hughes said.

“We’re kind of down to our staples of potatoes and onions,” she said.

There are two large food drives in the coming months that will help replenish the food bank’s inventory. Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts on North and Central Whidbey Island will knock on doors gathering food in April when they participate in the nationwide “Scouting for Food” drive.

Then, on May 14, the Post Office’s “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive provides a boost. Residents simply leave non-perishable food items in or near their mailbox for the carrier to pick up.

Wieman said the Interfaith Coalition in Oak Harbor held a food drive in January, which sje said helped replenish the food bank’s shelves.

Folks can still drop off food for Gifts from the Heart or Help House of North Whidbey Island.

Food for Gifts from the Heart can be donated at the following drop off locations: the Greenbank Store, the Coupeville branch of Whidbey Island Bank, the Coupeville Post Office lobby and Prairie Center Red Apple.

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.

North Whidbey Help House is located at 1091 SE Hathaway St. It’s open Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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