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Food Bank To Leave Downtown Relocation To Best Avenue Will End Program That Allows People To Pick From Donated Goods

Sat., Dec. 28, 1996

After 18 years in its downtown location, the food bank will soon be moved to Best Avenue.

The move will save money. It will also mean a loss of space, ending an innovative program that lets hungry people choose the food they can put on their families’ tables.

“It’ll be back to the food boxes,” sighed supervisor Doug Gabel. “You’ll get what you get.”

The building at 212 Coeur d’Alene Ave. is officially the Multi-Service Center, operated by the Community Action Agency. People can come here for assistance for such things as paying their power bills and weatherproofing their homes. But it’s the food bank operation that’s most visible to the community.

About 12,000 families - 6,000 new clients and an equal number of returnees - get food every year, Gable said.

The first step is an interview in which clients confirm that they qualify for help. (A single person can earn no more than $806 a month; a family of four, $1,625.)

At most food banks, clients would then be given a box of assorted food. But for the past four years, people who come here have been invited into the back room, where there are shelves lined with food.

They are allowed to choose from whatever happens to be in stock.

“I don’t know what you eat,” Gabel said, explaining why the staff came up with the idea. “Some people may not want a can of tuna for protein. They may want beef stew.”

If someone in the family is having a birthday, they can pick a cake mix. If they enjoy honey, they can have some for the cupboard.

The system of giving clients a choice won the food bank statewide recognition, said Gabel. But he knows that not everyone would agree it’s important.

“Some of the older people say, ‘If you’re hungry enough you’ll eat anything,”’ he said. “Well, maybe you like spinach…”

There won’t be room for display shelves at the food bank’s new location, which is the main Community Action Agency office on Best Avenue. The move may come in January. The Coeur d’Alene Avenue building is up for sale.

In addition to money saved on mortgage payments for the Coeur d’Alene Avenue building, the consolidation will save $12,000 a year on water, gas and garbage collection alone, Gabel said.

Meanwhile, the warehouse at the back of the building is full this week, thanks to recent food drives.

Some 25 major drives bring in a variety of goods, especially in the fall and spring. Cash donations are spent on the kinds of food that tend not to be donated, such as canned fruit and peanut butter.

Produce and other donated perishable items round out the offerings.

“This time of year, we’re really fat and sassy,” said Gabel. By spring, he added, supplies dwindle to “green beans, green beans and tomato soup.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


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