Families flood Salvation Army food banks as pandemic goes on

SEATTLE -- As unemployment numbers skyrocket due to the coronavirus shutdown, the number of people pleading for basic needs such as food is also going up.

DSHS says more than 33,000 people applied for basic food assistance this March compared to last March.

Organizations like the Salvation Army know the demand all too well.

At the Salvation Army’s food bank in Renton there is a method to the madness we are facing.

Workers and volunteers are filling up shopping carts much like a grocery store and then bagging them as fast as they can.

The long line of people waiting outside to grab the bags of food shows there are so many mouths to feed.

“The stuff they give us is always fresh and nutritious, they really filter through it and give us good stuff,” said one woman.

Many showing up to grab groceries to go on Thursday have been coming before the pandemic but now there is an influx of new families.

“This time we are seeing new people who have never had to use a food bank,” Major Merry Svenson said.

The shelves inside the warehouse may look full but the turnover is fast.

“The lines are getting larger and larger as the situation deepens,” Joleen Zanuzoski with the Salvation Army Advisory Board said.

“One of the things we run out of all the time is canned protein and that could be tuna, chicken or chili,” Svenson said.

The people on the receiving end say they are grateful for whatever they can get.

“I’ve gotten a kitchen full of food to eat otherwise I can’t afford,” James Johnson said.

Because of COVID-19, volunteers can’t interact with people the same way but Terry Dallas got emotional knowing he is making a difference.

“The looks on their faces when they see how full the bags are and the gratitude they have it just makes you feel good,” Dallas said.

Salvation Army says they also feed kids in the school system about 250 children every week. So far during the pandemic, they have helped 12,000 people.

But the demand continues to grow and they cannot do it alone.

Q13 News is working to stock the shelves at local food banks. Join us for our All Local All Together Virtual Food Drive benefiting the Salvation Army beginning at 7a.m. on Friday. We will have the Q13 news team standing by to take your donations.