When Jana Lissiak, Polack Food Bank Manager, looked at the 2013 city-wide food bank usage numbers she did a double-take, checked her math and then connected with colleagues in the food bank network to confirm her interpretation of the data.
Years after the official end of the Great Recession, food banks across Seattle continue to see record-breaking use. There were 750,000 visits to food banks in 2013, demonstrating a need that surpassed even the depths of the recessionary years. If the current 2014 trend continues, city-wide usage will blow past last year’s record and exceed it by an additional 90,000 visits.
As people – working poor, under-employed, elderly and those with disabilities – rely more and more on food banks, the result has been less food distributed per client, per visit. In 2013, the amount of food a person received on an average food bank visit decreased by 20% from 2009 levels.
“It seems like the emergency food system is not able to keep pace with the increasing demand for service,” says Lissiak. The Polack Food Bank benefits greatly from the Community-Wide Food Drive and from donations throughout the year. The Food Drive consistently brings in around 30,000 pounds of food. Prior to the recession, 30,000 would stock the Food Bank for about three months, but in recent years that same amount has been enough for only about one month.
“We’re fortunate to have an incredibly supportive community,” comments Lissiak, “But with the increased demand, we have to spend more money purchasing food to supplement our donated supply. That leaves us with less money to buy other basics that people need, including necessities like diapers, toothpaste and shampoo.”
“This year, we’re counting on our generous community as we always do,” says Carol Mullin, Director of Emergency Services. “We’re hoping people who are filling bags with food will also consider purchasing a bottle of shampoo, tube of toothpaste or package of diapers and add that to their contribution. These simple things that many of us take for granted make such a difference to the people we serve.”