Food Lifeline: Hunger and food banks in Shoreline and Lake Forest Park

Monday, November 21, 2011

By Diane Hettrick

Food banks in western Washington have their own territories, which do not necessarily coincide with the boundaries of the old city of Lake Forest Park or the new city of Shoreline. To add to the confusion, Shoreline is home to the largest hunger relief organization in the state - Food Lifeline - and while it does not give food to individuals, it is technically a "food bank."

Ashley Gammell, Corporate Relations Manager of Food Lifeline, explains:
"Washington State has unique hunger relief terminology and we are what is considered a Food Bank by the rest of the country. By local standards, we are considered a food distribution organization or a comprehensive hunger relief organization since we also distribute non-food resources and have an active presence in the basic needs public policy arena at the state and local level. 
Food Lifeline is the largest hunger relief organization in the state and serves the 17 counties of Western Washington through a network of 300 food banks, meal programs, and shelters. In fact, last year alone we distributed over 27 million meals through our network of member food banks, meal programs, and shelters to over 745,000 unique individuals."

Hopelink Shoreline, located next to Marshalls in the Sears Aurora Square shopping area, is one of the 300 agencies which regularly receives products from Food Lifeline for distribution to individuals and families through its local area food bank.

Leslie Brooks, Manager of Hopelink, has been canvassing the community, asking local organizations to set up regular food drives to benefit Hopelink. 

She said, "People are concerned that the food they contribute will stay in the local community. The truth is that we don't have enough local contributions of food or money to support the need in Shoreline. Every month we have to bring in food from the other Hopelink locations. And every month, the need is greater."

Ashley says that typically, the food that Food Lifeline goes after is much larger in quantity than an agency such as Hopelink would be able to process, i.e. a 40,000 lb. semi-truck filled with 1,000 pound boxes of apples. Their thriving volunteer program is largely dedicated to taking large donations like that and repacking them so that they can be handed out by local food banks to seniors and families.

Volunteers also sort fresh and perishable product donated through their retail grocery program. "We can book volunteer groups as large as 60 people at a time and had 9,000 volunteers donate their time last year." Windermere Shoreline spent a day recently repacking frozen peas. (see story)

North Helpline is another of the local food banks that Food Lifeline helps support. Located just off Lake City Way in north Seattle, it serves not only the Lake City area, but up Bothell Way into Lake Forest Park and North City. North Helpline currently has a Buy a Bag program with Safeway, where shoppers can pay $10 for a prepacked bag of food which will be given to North Helpline. (see story)

Does Food Lifeline have food drives? How do they get their contributions?
Ashley responds, "While we do have a program that accommodates community food drives, it is something we view more as an opportunity to educate the community about hunger rather than an efficient way to source food. Because of our large infrastructure and our affiliation with Feeding America, the nation’s food bank network, we can procure food much more efficiently through other means by using cash contributions on things such as freight and shipping costs on donated bulk loads of pasta, veggies, and proteins from other regions. 
"That is how we are able to maintain only a 4% administrative overhead and provide three meals with each donated dollar we receive. Often, we partner with large companies on cause-related marketing campaigns with a food drive component. 
"We strive to always keep the food drive product we collect in its community of origin, unless specifically directed to do otherwise by the donor."

Another local partner for Food Lifeline is POPY's Cafe, sponsored by the Dale Turner YMCA and the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church of Shoreline. Held at Bethel Lutheran Church in Shoreline, POP church volunteers serve a full dinner to anyone who shows up, every Wednesday evening.  POPY's is serving Thanksgiving Dinner on November 23rd.

If someone has access to large resources, how can they connect with Food Lifeline?
"Any company that sells, distributes or produces food and can make donations that are over 1,000 pounds per donation cycle is a great candidate to be a Food Lifeline Full Plate partner. We also work with grocery retail chains through our Grocery Rescue program and Seattle area restaurants and caterers through our Seattle’s Table program (more information about those programs here).

Other than volunteering to repackage food, how can community members help?
"People in the community who wish to support Food Lifeline’s work by making a cash donation can donate online or can text the word MEALS to 52000 and a ten dollar donation to Food Lifeline will be added to their monthly mobile phone bill. Food Lifeline can provide an entire day of nutritious meals to a hungry person with every $1 donation."

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