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What's your role? Local food bank supports those in need

  • Written by Deborah Stone
 People who are in need are often invisible, especially in a community where most residents live comfortably.

They tend not to make their struggles obvious to others, preferring to keep a low profile amid the relative affluence that exists around them. Unfortunately, the numbers of those in need are on the rise, primarily due to the challenging economic conditions and unemployment woes that continue to prevail.

Add the rising cost of gas, food and other expenditures and the problem worsens, as the dollar has to be stretched even further to cover basic necessities.

To help those who are having difficulty meeting their needs, a food bank can be a lifesaver.

The Maltby Food Bank, which serves the community of Maltby, as well as sections of unincorporated Woodinville and Monroe, distributed 511,612 pounds of food in the 2009-2010 year.

During this time, the organization served 6,431 families, 7,757 kids, 9,837 adults and 3,469 seniors.

"We saw an increase in numbers in every category," says Fran Walster, director of the Maltby Food Bank, "with the most significant being the senior population, which rose by 12 percent."

Walster notes that seniors are often the hardest hit because many are living on limited incomes. She adds that the food bank has also seen a greater number of single men and families use its services in the past few years.

Walster began the food bank 18 years ago as a way to aid her community neighbors.

"It can be hard to admit you might need help," she says. "I wanted to create a place where people won’t ask you why you’ve come. And where people will treat you with kindness and respect." She adds, "At the Malty Food Bank, we don’t look down at anyone who comes to us in need because we never know if we’re going to be in the same situation someday. You never know if it’s going to happen to you."

The Maltby Food Bank tries to provide each individual who comes to its doors with a five-day supply of food that includes a variety of canned goods, meats, bread, produce, dry staples and milk.

Walster explains that the organization belongs to a grocery rescue. Stores, such as Albertsons and Fred Meyer, along with places like the Root Connection in Woodinville, donate food on a consistent basis.

This year, a local church, Shepherd of the Hills, created a garden with the sole purpose of supplying fresh produce to the food bank.

"We are blessed to have these resources," comments Walster. "This community is very generous. We’ve also had assistance from service clubs, too. The Woodinville Rotary, for example, has helped us. And then different businesses hold food drives for us throughout the year."

Walster notes that the food bank provides more than just food to its clients. It hands out toys at Christmas, school supplies in the fall and birthday bags for kids on their special day.

The organization functions with the aid of a cadre of dedicated volunteers who selflessly give of their time and energy.

"We’re all volunteers here," says Walster. "When we started, there were about 14 of us. Now, it’s up to nearly 60. This place couldn’t survive without volunteers and the generous support of others."

Walster believes the food bank plays a necessary role in the community. She emphasizes the fact that no one wants to be poor or hungry.

People sometimes make bad choices or they get ill, or they become victims of circumstances beyond their control, and as a result, their living situations change.

Conditions can rapidly deteriorate and suddenly they find they are in a crisis mode.

"I want our community to know there is a place they can come to during hard times," says Walster. "We will welcome you and help you as long as you need us."

For more information about the Maltby Food Bank: www.maltbyfoodbank.org or (360) 668-7900.

Donations are always welcome.

Of particular need are cleaning supplies, toilet paper and baby food.

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