The Salvation Army is looking for food bank volunteers so it can return to its prepandemic way of operating that includes allowing food bank clients to shop for their own food while being assisted by a personal shopper.
The Salvation Army’s food bank on its campus at 222 W. Indiana Avenue is the largest in the state when considering how many people come through the door. It typically serves 2,500 families a month and last year handed out 4 million pounds of food. It is open from 9 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
On a recent Tuesday morning, the storage area for the food bank was piled high with boxes of everything from canned vegetables to chili.
“Usually on Monday and Tuesday this will fill up and by Friday it will be all gone,” Major Ken Perine said.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the food bank switched to offering prepacked boxes of food to those in need of assistance as a way to reduce contact between volunteers and clients.
Now that Spokane County is in reopening Phase 3, the food bank can resume personal shopping, Perine said. This allows people to select food they like and decline food they can’t or won’t eat. Doing it that way cuts down on waste, Perine said.
“It’s a lot better when they can go through and pick their own stuff,” he said. “The volunteers come through and pack the shelves. We have volunteers bring guests through. We don’t have enough volunteers to do both at once.”
Demand for food is low , probably due to the stimulus checks that recently went out, Community Services Program Manager Cassandra Cram said.
“We’ll see an influx in May when their funds dwindle down,” she said.
Overall use of the food bank has been high during the pandemic, Cram said.
“When this started, the need was really great,” she said. “We had new people.”
The Salvation Army food bank is unique in that clients don’t have to live in certain ZIP codes. They serve anyone living in the surrounding area and families can visit once a month.
“We don’t have income guidelines,” Cram said. “I’m not going to ask you how much you make.”
Perine said they trust that families are in need.
“You don’t come to a food bank unless you need it,” he said.
Families are sometimes forced to choose between paying bills and buying food, Perine said.
“I always encourage people to pay their rent,” he said. “Come to us for food.”
The Salvation Army prefers that its volunteers be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Perine said. They will also be required to wear masks while they work and should have the ability to lift at least 20 pounds.
“They have to like people,” Cram said. “That’s kind of a big one. In return, you get an amazing, rewarding day.”
Those interested in volunteering can call (509) 329-2721 or visit www.makingspokanebetter.org and clicking on “Volunteer in this community.”
People who want to help the food bank but can’t volunteer are encouraged to send money. One of the things the food bank hopes to purchase is a large table for displaying produce. “Normally, we get enough donated food,” Perine said. “We really need money for keeping the lights on, staff, food cards. This is the one program we don’t get any government funds for. It’s completely funded by the community.”
Nina Culver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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