Good food and feeding the hungry are important to Sharon Snuffin, who has dedicated years to feeding Pierce County residents.
In fact, it could be considered a family calling, as Snuffin’s aunt, Patricia “Pat” Bujacich, retired in November after more than 20 years volunteering at the Hospitality Kitchen run by St. Leo’s Catholic Church and Nativity House.
Snuffin — founder and owner of Snuffin’s Catering in Gig Harbor — serves on the board for the Emergency Food Network (EFN), a nonprofit organization that distributes food to 73 Pierce County food banks, meal sites and shelters, including four programs in the Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula area.
EFN is currently running a Capacity Campaign — of which Snuffin is co-chair — to raise money for the organization to expand its storage and distribution area to 2.2 acres of land, directly across from the current facilities in Lakewood, according to EFN executive director Helen McGovern-Pilant.
Our job is pretty simple...We provide free meals to food banks, meal sites and shelters.
Helen McGovern-Pilant, EFN executive director
“Our job is pretty simple,” McGovern-Pilant said. “We provide free meals to food banks, meal sites and shelters ... we’re in the distribution business, not the storage business.”
In addition to the purchase of the land and building a new storage facility, the campaign will also cover the cost of purchasing another delivery truck and three years salary for a driver.
EFN is unique in that it operates with a four percent overhead for administration, an extremely low administrative cost, according to Snuffin.
“This is bare bones,” she said of EFN’s facility. “(There’s) nothing fancy.”
McGovern-Pilant said that the majority of the clients who need food assistance are seniors, children and working families.
EFN distributes 1.5 million pounds of food per month in Pierce County, McGovern-Pilant said, including to the Backpacks 4 Kids program in the Peninsula School District.
1.5 million pounds of food per month EFN distributes in Pierce County
The Backpacks 4 Kids program provides enough food for a family of four over the weekend.
“I wish it could be duplicated everywhere,” McGovern-Pilant said of Backpacks 4 Kids. “It’s so thoughtful. So dignified. So wonderful.”
The backpacks include everything needed for the meal, including spices and herbs, which are rare commodities in food banks. Other precious commodities in the food banks are fresh fruits and vegetables, which are in constant demand.
EFN supplements the donations from Northwest Harvest, Rotary First Harvest and central Washington farmers with their own organic farm. The 8-acre Mother Earth Farm is located in the Puyallup Valley and produced more than 90,000 pounds of produce in 2014.
90,000 pounds of produce produced by Mother Earth Farm in 2014
The farm relies on volunteers and has a contract with the Department of Corrections to allow inmates from the Washington Corrections Center for Women who are enrolled in a horticulture program with Tacoma Community College to work on the farm as their lab portion of the class.
“We literally could not do without them,” McGovern-Pilant said of the women. “(And) I’m not sure they could heal without us. It’s a fabulous relationship.”
With a $2.3 million budget in 2015, EFN was able to distribute $22 million worth of food last year, McGovern-Pilant said.
“We have very generous donors,” she said, adding that for every dollar donated the organization is able to fund $12 worth of food. EFN also partners with the Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH foodbank and FISH Pierce County to provide a mobile food bank to Key Peninsula residents for the past year, taking over the program from a previous food bank.
We’re gonna focus our time on whether those kids eat in the summer.
Aside from the required government questions about household size and income, EFN tries to ask as few questions of the food bank clients as possible.
“We would like to ask no questions,” she said. “We don’t want people...to perceive it is a government agency. If someone’s gonna stand in line ... in the rain ... and wait for the mobile to show up, (we assume) they’re hungry.”
70,000 number of children in the Pierce County school districts that qualify for free or reduced lunch
And with 70,000 children in the Pierce County school districts qualifying for free and reduced lunches, asking questions is the last thing on McGovern-Pilant’s mind.
“We’re gonna focus our time on whether those kids eat in the summer,” she said.
For more information about EFN, to find volunteer opportunities or to make a donation to the Capacity Campaign, visit www.efoodnet.org or call (253) 584-1040.