Food donations up despite tough times

South Kitsap High School volunteer Isaiah Nelson pushes a shopping cart through the food warehouse at South Kitsap Helpline, selecting food for a needy family.

When Nelson is finished, he’d filled the cart with what a family would need for a week’ or go worth of food.

“We’re blessed as a food bank. We have a good community here that supports us,” said Jennifer Hardison, South Kitsap Helpline executive director.

Hardison said her group distributes more than one million tons of food a year from their location on Mitchell Avenue. “A majority of it’s donated,” she said.

Even in the hard economic times, Hardison said she believes donations have increased over the past four years.

“I think because people realize there’s a need. Before people may have had their head in the sand,” said Hardison.

She said today, people who come to the Helpline have more problems that just needing food.

“They are not able to meet other basic needs,” she said. “We can help them meet the food need, but there is other programs that can assist them. There is never enough.”

Hardison, who started with the group in 2001, said because some families have had their electrical power turned off, they can’t take perishable foods with them.

“That happens a lot,” she said.

According to Hardison, SK Helpline serves about 50,000 people annually — more than 48,000 for food only. SK Hepline also uses gasoline vouchers to help some individuals who need to get to work or school. SK Helpline is part of the Kitsap County Food Bank Coalition.

Down the road, Christian Life Center dinner coordinator Joe Sommer said donations have been good.

Since June, the church and its volunteers have served more than 1,200 people during their free dinners each Saturday.

“We have a steady cliental to come here each week,” Sommer said. “We provide them with food, bedding and clothing.”

Sommer said the church is partnering with the Harper Church and Kitsap Rescue Mission.

“We have never had a problem in getting what we need,” said Sommer. “All we have to do is ask and the church has always met our needs.”

Sommer sees people donating more even in tough economic times.

“The worst the economy becomes, the bigger people hearts get in helping,” he added.

There was no one available for comment from the South Kitsap Food Basket.


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