Among the clients and volunteers at the door of the Woodinville Storehouse Food Bank Tuesday night, was a 13-year-old boy, accompanied by his mother and a cart filled with 423 cans and boxes of food items.
Ryan Plummer, a student at Northshore Junior High School in Bothell, had spent the previous day – the Martin Luther King Jr. birthday holiday – imploring grocery shoppers to contribute the food that he brought to the food bank’s distribution center at Woodinville Community United Methodist Church.
His goal, Ryan said, was “to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a ‘day on,’ instead of a ‘day off.’ ”
Along the way, he recruited his cousin, Becca Stevens, as well as a manager at the Haggen grocery store in Woodinville, who provided a table near the store’s entrance. From there, Ryan and Becca collected the food items and $40 in cash from Haggen shoppers.
“I didn’t expect it to be so fun,” Ryan said. “People were really nice, and they gave a lot more than we expected.”
Efforts such as Ryan and Becca’s, as well as more modest contributions of canned and packaged goods that are left in collection bins at the church, are the lifeblood of the food bank, which serves about 220 clients year-round, according to Don Morgan of Woodinville, the food bank’s director of fundraising and communications.
Donations from individuals are supplemented by contributions from local businesses – Franz Bakery and Panera Restaurant are regular contributors, Morgan said – and from community non-profit organizations. A Boy Scout food drive earlier this year, for instance, generated more than 8,000 pounds of food.
For more than six years, eight area churches have cooperated to run the food bank, and “community support has been fantastic,” Morgan said.
The night Ryan dropped off his cargo, volunteers were guiding clients through grocery store-like shelves in a distribution room, one of two basement rooms the church provides for the storehouse. The other is a stockroom that holds more food, as well as socks and other items made available at the food bank.
In the distribution room, the shelves are filled with food staples, including bread, canned vegetables, tuna, packaged pasta meals, peanut butter and cereal. There is also fresh ground beef, fruit, lettuce, milk and eggs, as well as specialty dairy items like soy milk and almond milk. Signs on the shelves list the maximum number of items available to clients during a single visit.
The goal, Morgan said, is to provide the basics necessary for a healthy diet, along with some variety.
“If people don’t like Honeycomb cereal, they can get Cheerios,” Morgan said. “They have a choice.”
Pet owners can pick up plastic bags filled with dog food and cat food, offerings that have become more common at area food banks in recent years, according to Diane Lemoi, a Woodinville resident who, on Tuesday, had picked up pet food contributions gathered at the Homeward Pet Adoption Center in Woodinville.
In addition to volunteering and serving on the board of the food bank, Lemoi is a client. She said food from the storehouse is an essential supplement to what she can afford on her income from social security payments.
“If I didn’t have this place, there are days that I wouldn’t have food in my house,” she said. “I am truly grateful.”
While some food bank recipients are homeless, Morgan said, many are employed with a place to live, but not enough income to feed their families.
Food is available during the storehouse’s twice-weekly distributions. Residents who arrive at the storehouse from outside its service area – Woodinville, Kirkland, Redmond, Kenmore and Bothell – are given information about food banks closer to where they live, “but we don’t turn away anybody that comes in,” Morgan said.
The storehouse has about 150 volunteers who stock shelves, assist those obtaining food, load items into recipients’ vehicles and pickup contributions. Like Lemoi, many are current or former food bank clients.
“Once people get back on their feet, they come back to help us out,” Morgan said.
The storehouse shelves are well-stocked in the weeks following the holiday season, a time when residents are mindful of those in need of food and particularly willing to contribute, Morgan said.
But the summer months are more demanding. Donations fall off, and there are fewer school-meal programs for families with children, Morgan said, creating an urgent need for food by August and September.
The Woodinville Storehouse Food Bank is located in the lower level of Woodinville Community United Methodist Church, 17110 140th Ave. NE, Woodinville.
Contributions of food can be left in collection bins at the church; food distribution hours are 6:30 to 7:20 pm Tuesdays, and 9:30 to 10:20 am Saturdays.