Eastside food drive helps stock Issaquah food pantry for winter

November 9, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

The pantry at the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank is fuller after a monthlong food drive spearheaded by local churches.

Parishioners mobilized in late September to grocery stores throughout the area to encourage shoppers to donate. In the subsequent month, the faith groups pulled in 11,700 pounds of food for the downtown Issaquah pantry.

The drive — called the Eastside’s Month of Concern for the Hungry — united businesses, community leaders, faith-based organizations, hospitals, neighborhood associations and schools to stock area food banks before the holiday rush.

“The need has increased because of job layoffs and we’re getting more clients and new families every day,” Kim Ortego, assistant to the executive director at the Issaquah food pantry, said last week.

The food bank serves about 400 families from throughout the Issaquah School District.

During the drive, parishioners distributed shopping lists at a handful of local grocers and encouraged shoppers to purchase staple items to donate. Then, participants collected and donated the food.

For the Rev. Mark Miller, pastor at Mountain Creek Christian Fellowship, the setup seemed ideal for shoppers.

“They didn’t have to do anything other than shop — and they were going to do that anyhow,” he said. “It worked well for the stores and it worked well for the food bank.”

The churches managed to collect 11,700 pounds of food despite competition from other nonprofit groups stationed at grocery store entrances.

“We had people that bought more for the food bank than they bought for themselves while they were in the store,” Miller said.

Several Issaquah churches united last fall to collect food bank donations during the inaugural Eastside’s Month of Concern. The drive hauled in 15,898 pounds of food for the Issaquah food bank last year.

Besides the Issaquah food drive, similar efforts launched Sept. 25 in Sammamish, Bellevue, Kirkland, Mercer Island and Redmond. Combined, Eastside residents collected more than 48,000 pounds of food.

The recipients include the Emergency Feeding Program of Seattle & King County. Executive Director Arthur Lee said the drive serves as a reminder to residents, in addition to a chance to donate.

“Hunger is something that unfortunately happens year round,” he said. “The impetus of this particular food drive is to heighten the attention of the growing need out there.”

Organizers started planning for a regional food drive next fall just as the Eastside’s Month of Concern concluded in late October. Miller cited the enthusiastic response from donors as a reason to continue.

“We had people thank us for being there,” he said. “They thanked us for making it so easy for them to donate.”

Organizers said shoppers seemed eager to participate in the food drive, even if economic hardship left them unable to donate much.

“Here in Washington state, particularly in this Puget Sound area, individuals are very responsive,” Lee said. “They make the extra sacrifice. There’s less of an ‘I’ and more of a ‘we’ mentality.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

How to help

  • Donate nonperishable food items to the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank, 179 First Ave. S.E. Learn more about the food bank, and donate funds, at the pantry website.
  • Boehms Candies also has a food drive planned for Nov. 26-28. The effort encourages customers to donate canned goods and other nonperishable items to the food bank. If customers donate three or more items at the candy shop, 255 N.E. Gilman Blvd., they receive a free chocolate Santa Claus.
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