I want to tell you about John. He is a regular at Bellingham Food Bank. John's been visiting the food bank for years. Some days he is in a lot of pain and doesn't say much. Other days he greets me with a sly smile and clever comment about the food he's going to pick up that day. John visits every week.
John is so much more than a food bank client. He is a husband who is caring for his disabled wife. He is a Vietnam veteran. He is a grandfather who is unexpectedly raising some of his grandchildren. He is a heart attack survivor who worked good jobs for decades until his disability took over. John never thought he would need a food bank. He had always worked. He served his country. He happily supported his family through other tough times. Now, he doesn't know what he would do without the food bank's support. He also can't imagine a time when he won't need the food bank's support to feed himself and his family.
John's family is one of hundreds of families who visit our food bank every week for one of life's most basic needs -- food.
During the winter holidays, donations literally poured into the Bellingham Food Bank. Checks were mailed, our website was busy receiving online donations, and tens of thousands of pounds of food were dropped off at our warehouse. In December staff and volunteers were as busy managing these great donations as we were supporting the families that came for food.
Hunger and food insecurity is a year-round condition for most families who visit our food bank. Our task as a food bank, and I believe as a community, is that we remember and remain involved in fighting hunger every day, week and month of the year. Bellingham Food Bank responded to 10,500 visits in December. In January the visits totaled 11,800. We know that we will be busy serving clients all year. We need to try to involve our community in helping us feed our neighbors all year too.
Our food bank has lots of great programs that can benefit and grow with the help of our community. Join in on any of these great efforts:
The Garden Project builds raised-bed gardens for low-income community members and helps gardeners learn to grow their own food. We're currently looking for gardeners and garden mentors. Sound interesting? Give us a call.
Food Bank Fresh is an innovative program that contracts with local farmers who grow and sell fresh, local produce to our food bank at below-wholesale pricing. Want to be part of an initiative that that supports local farms and food bank families? Give us a call.
Milk Money is a year-round campaign that insures all food bank families will receive at least one-half gallon of milk each visit. Edaleen Dairy sells us milk at a really low price to make this program doable. Milk Money could use more community sponsors to make sure we can buy enough milk throughout the year. Think you could be a Milk Money sponsor? Give us a call.
Hunger doesn't take a holiday. Right now, one in six Bellingham households regularly depend on our food bank. They need our support every week of the year. I'm hoping you'll consider learning more about our food bank, the people we serve and the programs we operate. I believe we can do more to help meet the needs of our hungry neighbors throughout the entire year. I believe hunger is unacceptable. If you think you want to do more, please let us know -- we're easy to find and eager to listen.
Mike Cohen is executive director of the Bellingham Food Bank, 1824 Ellis St. For more information call 360-676-0392 or go to bellinghamfoodbank.org.