Jaylene Low stacks crates of tomato sauce on the shelves at Colville Food and Resource Center. Her mother, Angela Low, who has volunteered at the food bank for five years says this is the lowest she has ever seen donations. â€śItâ€™s getting scary,â€ť she said last Friday. â€śWe just bought a shipment of food from Second Harvest, so our shelves look a little fuller. But donations of food and money arenâ€™t near what they were five years or even two years ago.â€ť
Itâ€™s customary for the S-E to check in with the Colville Food and Resource Center during near the beginning of fall, as the holiday season peaks over the horizon. This year, fall was too far away, according to CFRC Director Frani Roberts.
â€śUsually, I wait until the end of September, but I have to get the word out now,â€ť says Roberts, motioning to the scant, nearly bare shelves in the food bank. â€śWeâ€™re hurting and we need all the help we can get.â€ť
Because of cuts in funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which makes up 30 percent of the CFRCâ€™s food purchasing budget, combined with a 75 percent decrease in food donations from area grocery stores, the food bank is feeling the pinch.
â€śIâ€™m not blaming anyone,â€ť Roberts says. â€śI realize that itâ€™s because of the economy and hands are tied.â€ť
Northwest Harvest usually contributes a bi-monthly donation of 5,000 pounds of food, which Roberts says has been cut by 18 percent. Second Harvest Foods, who usually donates 4,000 to 6,000 pounds worth of commodities, has cut back 60 percent.
â€śIt feels like the first year I started here (as director),â€ť says Roberts, who has been the food bankâ€™s director for six years. â€śWeâ€™ve been providing food to an average of 450 families per month for the past several month. Because people are having such a rough go of it, Iâ€™d say the need is up 20 percent from what it was last year.â€ť
Dinner and Auction fundraiser Sept. 24
Other assistance offered through CFRC that has taken a hit is the Colville School Supply program, where needy students are given a backpack filled with basic school supplies like notebooks, paper, folders, pencils, glue, etc. Robertâ€™s says that last year, 145 children were signed up for the program. This year, 170 signed up, but because of a lack of supplies, it was on a first come, first served basis.
â€śBecause the economy is the way that it is right now and resources are declining, at this point, we will not be offering holiday food baskets for Thanksgiving and Christmas, not unless things pick up,â€ť states Roberts.
Decreased donations may also force the CFRC to reevaluate how it distributes food and supplies to customers. Currently, families are provided with one large box of food per month and must sign in when picking up goods. Revamped policy might reduce the amount of the food CFRC is able to distribute per month and/or require people to supply two pieces of identification.
â€śNothing has been decided yet,â€ť clarifies Roberts. â€śBut those are options that we may be forced to look at.â€ť
The food bankâ€™s annual Dinner and Auction, slated for Saturday, Sept. 24 at 5 p.m. at the Stevens County Ag. Trade Center is a fundraiser Roberts is hoping will help boost the organization through the fall and winter months ahead. There is a donation request of $25 per person.
To request tickets, call Roberts at 684-2971 or Kathy at 675-4481. To make a donation to the auction, contact Linda Rambow at 684-5017.
â€śWe know that people are strapped for cash, but the great thing about this community is that we always help each other out,â€ť says Roberts. â€śWe hope people will come back to helping the food bank.â€ť