Sowing seeds of hope at harvest time

There’s more than enough hunger to go around this Thanksgiving.

Helpline House has seen a 25 percent increase in the number of families using its food bank services over the past year, director Joanne Tews said.

“Usually we see 130 families,” Tews said. “This year it’s 160.”

A disturbing trend, she said, is the increasing number of people with jobs who can’t make ends meet.

Tews’ observations are reflected in a study released this week by Food Lifeline, a Western Washington relief agency and United Way partner.

The nationwide study, conducted by an independent social policy research firm, found that people who used Western Washington food banks this year were better educated and often employed. They experienced far more “severe” hunger than the national average.

Uncertainty about where the next meal is coming from – food insecurity – among emergency food recipients in Western Washington is 50 percent higher than the national average, the study said. And the percentage of Food Lifeline clients with college education is 48 percent, compared to the national average of 23 percent.

“This is a startling discovery that shatters the myth that food bank recipients are less educated and not working,” said Linda Nageotte, Lifeline executive director. “These are people who are playing by all the rules – working, raising kids – but their jobs don’t provide them with what they need.”

Nageotte speculates that the Seattle area’s high cost of living, second only to San Francisco in its rapid rise, may make it harder for families to get by.

Tews sees parallels on Bainbridge, and said Helpline’s food bank reserves will run low if giving does not pick up.

Helpline has a special food drive for the holiday, Project Wishbone, that distributes boxes of foods themed to Thanksgiving to families in need. But this year, the increased need may leave some families without Thanksgiving dinner.

Sabina Quitslund, executive assistant to Tews, says that last-minute requests for baskets may go unfulfilled.

“We’re asking the community for help,” Tews said.

Those who would like to donate can get a shopping list from Helpline, or donate $30 to feed a family of four, or $45 to provide dinner for six.

Helpline will also accept turkey cards from Town and Country.

Shopping lists can be picked up at Helpline, as can drop-off dates for islanders assembling baskets.

Thanksgiving baskets are also being assembled at St Cecilia Catholic Church.

Parishioners donate money throughout the year so baskets can be assembled at Thanksgiving, said, Susan Lester, president of the local conference of St. Vincent de Paul, the lay Catholic charity.

Lester says that St. Cecilia expects to distribute about 30 baskets, working in partnership with Helpline.

Parishioners will purchase goods at Town and Country and Costco this year.

One doesn’t have to attend St Cecilia’s to contribute, Lester said.

The downturn of the economy and resulting layoffs in recent months will likely bring others to seek assistance.

“If an island family stepped forward to put together a box of Thanksgiving ingredients for another family, we wouldn’t exactly say ‘no,’” Lester said.

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