LAKE STEVENS, Wash. - Rising prices due to inflation on top of the stresses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are putting a financial strain on so many people. Many are seeking services to find their next meal and basic hygiene necessities. Food banks in Washington are experiencing an intensified demand as families struggle to pay higher prices for groceries.
The situation is also slowing down donations that are needed to finish construction of a new location for the Lake Stevens Community Food Bank. The site has been 15 years in the making and is one step closer to becoming reality. However, funding to finish the construction has fallen $800,000 short of its $2.7 million goal.
Anthony Hawley, the food bank’s executive director, said inflation, supply chain issues and the labor shortage are factors.
"It’s hard to ask for more money from our local government. When you look at the site, it doesn’t look like anything has been done. And so the goal is that we will start getting this built and show them that we are spending the money that they’ve already given us," said Hawley.
The executive director said Lake Stevens is in great need of the facility. He said before COVID-19, the food bank only had one distribution location, serving about 150 people per week. After the pandemic, the food bank had to open four additional distribution sites serving about 100 people in a day at each location. He said each site has outgrown the space based on demand.
"Now we’re seeing a rise in the number of people that we serve due to inflation. For instance, we have to purchase some of the food we get now," said Hawley. "And then the cost of gas—just so many different things going up in price has caused more people to come to you for help."
The food bank has received grants to continue purchasing food and hygiene products without any interruptions providing that service to those who need it. He said the public has also been very generous donation food and other goods.
Now the food bank is turning to the community for help rallying up the rest of the money to fund the new building. Hawley said the facility would serve the growing amount of people who need the services. Once it’s complete, the 10,000 square foot location will be set up like a grocery store
"When people come in, there will be shelves refrigerators and everything like that so they can actually have a cart and walk through and pick out their own items. It will allow them to have dignity coming to a good bank versus the way we have to do it now—which is kind of here’s your food and shut their trunk and have them drive away," said Hawley.
He also hopes the space will be utilized should residents ever need assistance from FEMA during a disaster.
"We don’t currently have a FEMA hub in this part of Snohomish County. And so the goal is that we would have a place that we can have FEMA come and set up if there is some sort of natural disaster, we’ll obviously have food stock. There’s actually a room that’s going to be a medical room in the building, there will be restrooms and showers," said Hawley.
The food bank will also designate a space for social services that will include assistance on paying bills, childcare, job applications and training. Hawley said the goal is to start digging the foundation in June 2022. He hopes construction will finish in November 2022 at the earliest, or April 2023 at the latest.
Lake Stevens Food Bank has a page on its website where interested donors can learn more about the building and make a donation.