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Lake Stevens Food Bank struggles to gather funds for new facility

About the Lake Stevens Community Food Bank. Source: Telisha Packard

LAKE STEVENS, Wash., May 19, 2022 – As the number of families served have skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic, the Lake Stevens Food Bank is looking to open a new facility as late as November 2023, but is falling short of the $2.7 million needed to complete.

Lake Stevens Food Bank has operated in the Ebenezer Lutheran Church basement since its inception in the 1990’s but has since “outgrown it” Executive Director Anthony Hawley told the Lynnwood Times. Although the plan to build a new facility has been in the works for at least a dozen years, the increase in struggling families is making the new building more necessary than ever.

On average the Food Bank serves around 3,200 families a month and while the funding may be tight to finish completion of a new building, they fortunately, haven’t had to turn away a single family yet due to the generous food and supply donations of Food Life Line, Volunteers of America, and many private donors.

“Despite COVID making our numbers through the roof, we’ve been very blessed living in the community we do. They’ve really stepped up in supplying donations so that we never have to turn away a family,” Hawley said.

The non-profit has already secured a plot of land for its new building, through the donation of a community member, but is somewhat at a standstill for gathering funds to build the facility due to inflation and supply chain shortages. The building costs originally came out to around $1.2 million, when the Food Bank began their planning process, but has increased to $2.7 million since acquiring the site.

lake stevens food bank

Through a $500,000 grant from the City of Lake Stevens, a $600,000 grant from Snohomish County secured by Councilman Sam Low (R-Lake Stevens), as well some other private donations, the Food Bank has acquired enough to at least begin the construction process almost completing its second phase which involves curbing and starting the foundation around June.

“We have enough to start building but we’re still short on funds,” Hawley told the Lynnwood Times. “Since we’ve already received grants it’s really hard to ask the city, or the county, or any government agency for more money if they don’t see progress so that’s our goal, at least starting the foundation.”

Phase I consisted of mostly site prep, leveling the ground, and prepping the site which was completed by Redtail Construction. Snohomish-based Corstone Contractors has been hired to carry out the work of Phase II.

The Food Bank hopes to complete construction by the end of April 2023 at the latest, and November 2022, at the earliest, if all goes according to plan but Hawley informed the Lynnwood Times “It constantly gets pushed back.”

To secure the remaining dollars, the Food Bank’s Board of Directors have been meeting with local politicians to illustrate the community’s need for their services which, once the new building is complete, would not stop with simply food supply.

“Our goal is to not just make this a food bank. We don’t want to just serve food, there are community resources that are severely lacking in Lake Stevens,” Hawley told the Lynnwood Times.

The roughly 10,000 square foot building would also offer FEMA emergency shelters for community members complete with showers, offering other services like connecting people in need of housing and behavioral services to partners like Volunteers of America.

When COVID hit the Food Bank was forced to change up their model using mobile distribution sites at different partnering churches around the city. With the opening of a new, centralized, building this will also enable them to service everyone from one location.

In addition to meeting with local politicians, the Food Bank has also implemented several community outreach programs like fundraising events, social media and word-of-mouth awareness, and a DipJar donation device stationed at several, rotating, local businesses.

DipJar enables a preset credit or debit card collect donation using an easy to use, one-step, card reading device. Since implementing the DipJar on April 22, the Lake Stevens Food Bank has secured around $5,500 in donations. You can currently find one at the Red Cork Wine Bar in Lake Stevens.

The Lake Stevens Food Bank also accepts donations through their website.

About Lake Stevens Food Bank and its shift to drive through service

Lake Stevens Community Food Bank partners with about 100 volunteers to serve approximately 200 families each week. Volunteers and staff procure, sort, store and distribute fresh and non-perishable food to families in partnership with four community churches around Lake Stevens.

Assembly of God Church, Calvary Chapel and The Lake Church all have committed to serving as mobile distribution sites for Lake Stevens Food Bank’s families in addition to its founding site at Ebenezer Lutheran Church.

COVID has shifted the Food Bank’s gears to a drive through model where families drive up, fill out a Google document on their needs, family size, and dietary restrictions as well as any cleaning, childcare, or hygiene supplies they may need. Halal, Latin, and Asian options are also available, as long as the bank has inventory, to serve a variety of different cultures.

The drive through model operates by designating volunteers to different stations. Families driving through, or walking up, are met by “menu takers” who assess their needs, which is then printed out on a receipt collected by a “runner” who packs a cart full of groceries and hands it off to a “loader” who safely loads it into their car.

“When I first started working here sometimes I’d see some really nice cars come through, but you never actually know what that person’s going through,” Hawley told the Lynnwood Times. “Our goal is just to help people get back on their feet – we don’t want to see people go hungry.”

Upcoming Empty Bowls event

Each year the Lake Stevens Food Bank holds their biggest fundraiser of the year called Empty Bowls where they sell custom-made bowls ranging from $2 to a couple hundred dollars. Typically the lower end of that spectrum are bowls hand painted by children during a free event held prior, and the more expensive are done by local artists, often well-known who create highly sought, highly priced work.

Local restaurants donate soup to the event which is provided free-of-charge to anyone who purchases a handmade bowl. All proceeds go to the Lake Stevens Food Bank.

“It’s a big event, it’s really fun and it’s open to everyone,” Hawley said.

Empty Bowls will be this November 5 at the Mill on Lake Stevens.

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