Food bank’s efforts worthy of financial support

The OlympianOctober 27, 2013 

Della Janzen (left) joins coworkers from various Puget Sound Energy offices to pack "Kids Weekend Food Bags" at the Thurston County Food Bank in downtown Olympia, part of the United Way's Thurston County Day of Caring event, September 21, 2012.

PETER HALEY / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Over its entire 41-year history, the Thurston County Food Bank has battled hunger within an ever-growing South Sound population and through several economic downturns. But not once during those four decades has the nonprofit held a formal fundraising event or campaign.

It is doing so now, and the public should support it.

The business of distributing food to those in need has changed since the food bank started in 1972. A shift from long-lasting staples to more fresh and frozen foods has created demands for special handling, including refrigeration. A trend toward large-volume donations from big retailers and bulk purchasing to lower costs requires greater warehouse space.

To meet these changing needs, the food bank hopes to raise $3.5 million in a capital campaign. It would use the funds to pay off the purchase of a warehouse on Mottman Road and retro-fit both it and the downtown Olympia client service center.

It’s a realistic goal because the well-managed nonprofit has been preparing to expand for nearly six years. The food bank has already raised $2.75 million of the total by setting aside funds, seeking out significant donors and a $1 million grant from the state’s 2013-2015 capital budget.

The Thurston County Food Bank is now asking the public for the last $750,000. Here are four good reasons to support its effort.

No. 1: The food bank has benefited from the recent location of several large distribution centers in the Hawks Prairie area that donate food to charities. But it comes with challenges. Where the food bank used to pick up boxes of donations in a pickup truck, now it needs a box truck to pick up thousands of pounds of food on pallets. This requires more storage space, including refrigerated areas, forklifts and pallet racks.

No. 2: Moving food storage to the new Mottman warehouse allows the food bank to renovate its 1942-era building in downtown Olympia. In addition to making structural improvements, such as a new roof, the campaign will fund an expanded shopping area that is expected to cut its service time in half.

No. 3: The food bank will repurpose some of the downtown space into a client waiting room. People now line up for hours outside the building in all kinds of inclement weather. Getting people inside and off the street treats them with respect and dignity. That and an exterior renovation will also help the food bank better blend into the surrounding neighborhood.

No. 4: The recent layoff of hundreds of Intel workers at Dupont is a reminder just how close many of us were to needing help. Of the food bank’s clients, 27 percent have jobs. Some 14 percent are more than 60 years old and 51 percent are children younger than 16. Only 2 percent are transient individuals.

Food Bank Executive Director Robert Coit and his board of directors deserve kudos for anticipating trends and addressing the scale of the organization before it becomes a crisis.

South Sound residents can feel good about helping such a well-run nonprofit respond to a changing business environment.

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