About a month ago, a mother with a 4-year-old boy and a newborn baby girl came to the Puyallup Food Bank in search for help.
Her husband was serving in the military, and the family was struggling. In their pantry at home, the only food they had to eat were bell peppers and crackers.
When Puyallup Food Bank executive director Shanna Peterson heard the woman’s story, she was moved to tears.
“Most of the families who come here are doing the best they can,” she said. “They’re having to make really difficult choices. (Situations are) a lot more complex than people realize.”
It’s not the only heart-wrenching story Peterson has heard in her time working with the food bank, but the stories are hitting her particularly hard right now, where she’s finding donations to the food bank are uncharacteristically low.
Around November, when the holidays are right around the corner, Peterson says she normally sees a huge increase in donations. The food bank typically receives 60 percent of its annual donations within the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
But that’s not the case this year, she says.
“This time of year, (giving) is at the forefront of everyone’s minds,” Peterson said. “They’re thinking about it. Donations typically come daily, and it’s not as much. From the way that it’s been coming in — I’m scared.”
Peterson went on to say that she thinks issues surrounding the economy and recent elections has people concerned, but that no matter the cause, the food bank still needs help. She witnesses firsthand how a lack of donation impacts local families.
“We’re not taking care of our own,” Peterson said.
I’m very confident that when the community knows of the need, they will assist.
Shanna Peterson, executive director of the Puyallup Food Bank
Last year in November, the Puyallup Food Bank was struggling to get turkeys out to the people they serve, but this year it’s needing even more. Peanut butter, Hamburger Helper, Rice-A-Roni and Pasta Roni are always helpful, Peterson says, and she is “thrilled and honored” to receive turkeys if others families don’t need them.
But even with low donations, Peterson holds onto her love of helping others, remembering the reaction of the woman she helped a month earlier.
“She bawled,” Peterson said. “There wasn’t a dry eye in here.”
In the future, there are opportunities for the community to get involved with the food bank. Next month, food bank employees and volunteers will be at the South Hill Mall every weekend in December for their annual Candy Buffet, where passersby can buy $15 or $20 boxes to fill up with candy while at the same time supporting the food bank.
Volunteers are also welcome, added Peterson, who mentioned that she is looking for individuals to commit to one day a week during regular business hours in particular.
Peterson encourages businesses, churches, schools, clubs and individuals to hold food drives and to help out in any way they can. She hopes that things will improve, and says she is grateful for any help the food bank can get.
“I’m very confident that when the community knows of the need, they will assist,” she said.
Those interested in donating food or money to the Puyallup Food Bank may do so online at puyallupfoodbank.org, by mail or by dropping off food any weekday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.