The Key Peninsula has multiple food banks, each with its own history and style of community support.
The Bischoff Food Bank, located in Home, is one of the more recent, founded in 2006 at the Key Peninsula Lutheran Church and moved to an independent facility in 2014. The Key Peninsula Community Services (KPCS) food bank began operating out of the Key Peninsula Civic Center in 1982, before eventually settling in its current location in the KPCS building, also in Home. In recent years, the KP has also received visits from mobile FISH food banks operating in Lake Kathryn Village and at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints near Key Peninsula Highway North and State Route 302.
The number of people served varies from place to place and depends heavily on the year and season. “It fluctuates in the summertime, when kids are out of school and no longer receiving free breakfast and lunch,” said Kimberly Miller, vice president of Bischoff. “Those kids that were getting some food aren’t getting anything during summer, so our numbers increase dramatically.” Miller estimates that Bischoff serves about 2,000 people per year including repeat visits.
KPCS quoted similar figures. “We’re comparable to most communities in Tacoma and Kitsap and we serve at least 2,000 people at least once a year,” said Executive Director Penny Gazabat. “Duplicated services usually reach at least 9,000 a year, especially during the (2008) economic crisis.”
Angela Saretis, director of development at FISH Food Banks of Pierce County, also cited the 2008 economic crisis as a time of increased usage for food banks. “From 2008, there was a 132 percent increase in food bank usage. We’re seeing minimal decreases but nowhere near the levels we were at prior to the 2008 downturn. The need is still there,” she said.
Changing demographics have also played a role on the KP, with an increasing need among seniors and youth.
“Even though the economy is being revitalized, the people that we serve typically are seniors, people with disabilities and young families, and that’s never going to go away,” Gazabat said. “So we do have a difficult time meeting their needs and having the public understand who our population truly is.”
Food banks acquire their goods through community donations, food-providing organizations like Emergency Food Network or Northwest Harvest and fundraising events. Government grants and assistance are available, but require demographic information and extensive paperwork. Even food banks with no parent organization, like Bischoff, still try to collect data about their visitors to prepare for future grants. “If and when we get more funding, we would be ready to supply them the information that they need,” Miller said.
In addition to direct funding or donations, local food banks depend on volunteer labor to stay open and supplied.
Both Saretis and Miller emphasized the impact of their initial volunteer experience and how it changed their perspective on food banks and their clients. “I would call on people to actually come by or sit in the lobby, maybe volunteer for an hour, and see the people who come through those doors, and it would change their life forever,” Miller said.
Local food banks strive to accept as many people as possible, regardless of outside factors. “No one is ever turned away,” Saretis said. “Our main tenets are compassion, dignity and respect.”
In addition to products like canned goods, peanut butter and quality cereal, most food banks are usually in need of household supplies such as soap, paper products and even pet food.
The Bischoff Food Bank in Home is open afternoons, Tuesday through Saturday, with extended hours Wednesdays. For more information, go to http://www.kpbischofffoodbank.org or call 425-444-2374.
The KPCS Food Bank is open for food basket distribution mornings and afternoons, during which their walk-in bread closet is also available. Go to http://www.keypeninsulacommunityservices.org or call 884-4440.
The mobile FISH Bank can be accessed on Fridays from 1 to 3 p.m. at Purdy Cost Less Pharmacy in Wauna and from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 12521 134th Avenue KPN. Go to http://www.fishfoodbanks.org or call 383-3164.
Editor’s Note: After publication of this article, Bischoff Food Bank Vice President Kimberly Miller said the numbers reported about Bischoff were inaccurate. “We serve 2,000 people per month,” not per year, she said. “Our clients can shop once per week, so in essence four times per month. Most are repeat families. Some come once per month, some come once per week.”