Ever heard the sound of what it takes to power an industrial-size walk-in freezer?
That’s one of the sights and sounds of our recent video tour of the White Center Food Bank. What were we doing there? Backstory: Last November, we took you inside the West Seattle Food Bank for a behind-the-scenes mini-tour. Then we got a recent invitation to come visit the “other” food bank serving part of West Seattle — the White Center Food Bank — where we learned about the service boundaries between WSFB’s area and WCFB’s area, and a whole lot more:
The West Seattle Food Bank serves most of West Seattle. But if you need food-bank services and you are south of SW Myrtle – you’re in the White Center Food Bank’s territory (which stretches from there to SW 140th in Burien, with its other boundaries being Highway 509 to the east and Puget Sound to the west; map here). What happens if you show up at the wrong one? As WCFB executive director Rick Jump explains it, you get an “emergency bag” if you are in desperate need, and you get information on the one you need to visit.
To backtrack, WCFB is a little off the beaten path. For almost two years, since moving into a bigger, brighter new location, it’s been located at 10829 8th SW (map), in a mostly residential neighborhood of White Center, though the location is not so remote for many of its clients who visit the King County Public Health center next door, and those who need it manage to find it – Jump says the clientele has grown about 10 percent per year for each of the three years he’s been executive director — right now it serves an average of 1,200 families per month — and our peek inside the “baby pantry” was a reminder that food banks provide clients with a lot more than just food:
Families aren’t its only clientele, of course — one group that gets special attention is senior citizens, who comprise about 10 percent of the WCFB clientele; starting March 1st, an hour every Thursday morning will be set aside just for them. But whatever your age, whenever you’re there to get food, when it’s your turn, you walk in here:
Sometimes food-bank clients’ pets get some help too, as evidenced when we visited the WCFB “repackaging” area:
Making the most of what they have and what they get is a big deal for Jump and his crew; he tells the story of how they use a small demonstration kitchen to create recipes for clients to use donated food that otherwise might not be very popular – such as a big donation of figs that didn’t get snapped up until they were featured in a demonstration recipe for homemade granola. “We’re very resourceful here,” Jump smiles. “We have to be.”
That goes for money too; their entire annual budget is $150,000. He is one of two paid staff members; all the other manpower comes from a bank of volunteers – up to 50 on any given day – as well as intern help such as AmeriCorps volunteer Brett, whom we met while there – he came from back east to spend an entire year working at WCFB before resuming his studies (and right now, by the way, he works a part-time weekend job at Metropolitan Market in West Seattle).
Jump says the volunteer corps is diverse in a variety of other ways, as it includes people of all ages, people with disabilities, and even former food-bank clients who want to give back to the agency that helped out.
As we always do while talking with nonprofit groups, we conclude our conversation by asking what kind of help they need the most; the answer comes quickly — money. Certainly they accept food donations — but money goes further because it enables WCFB to buy food at wholesale prices, and to cover some of its other expenses, such as the sizable utility bills that come from having to store food in that big walk-in freezer we showed you in the first video clip of this report (plus its companion walk-in fridge), as well as keeping the waiting area a comfortable temperature while clients wait; the electric bill alone can run up to $1,000/month. They don’t have a way to take online donations but you can call in a credit-card number (ask for a staff member when you call, since the volunteers can’t handle those transactions) or mail a check; the phone number and address are on this page. The WCFB’s big annual fundraiser, the Harvest Dinner, happens in the fall, so now that a few months have gone by, this is what Jump calls “the dry season,” when extra help is particularly welcome.
(Also a note about the West Seattle Food Bank — it just announced a signature event fundraiser for May 1, â€œInstruments of Change,â€ to be held at The Hall @ Fauntleroy. Tickets are $75 and available through WSFB, which also is seeking people whoâ€™d like to be table captains; call or e-mail to find out about helping with that, or about tickets.)