Helpline aims to keep doors open

Donations down, but leaders say they’ll keep ‘feeding our friends and neighbors.’

Along with everyone else struggling to cope with higher prices and a slumping economy, the South Kitsap Helpine food bank is finding its cupboards a bit bare right now.

However, its staff wants the public to know that they are determined to provide food to everyone who needs it.

“No one is ever turned away — we feed everyone who needs it,” said Michelle Roloff, the food bank’s Operations Manager, explaining that for the month of July, the organization fed more than 3,500 people with 59 thousand pounds of food.

To keep its doors open, Roloff said some staff members’ hours have been cut, including hers, and in two weeks the bank will be open two less hours a week.

“We don’t want to cause a scare, and we want people to know that we are still here and still fighting for the public,” she said Monday. “And we put the call out (for donations), and the public has been bringing in food this morning, which has been nice.”

Also a big help, she said, were the collections during last weekend’s Murder Mystery downtown, which had merchants collecting 174 pounds of food and $270 for the bank.

“We are very, very grateful,” Roloff said, adding that it’s certainly understandable that when times get tough, “people begin taking care of their own, and they are not meaning to forget about other people. So, as with anything in life, sometimes you just need to be reminded.”

Roloff said the current reduction in donations is due to a “combination of things,” as not just individual donors are struggling, but businesses, as well.

Thanks to the late summer harvest, however, Roloff said the food bank is getting some “glorious fresh food” right now, but added that bulk dry foods are always appreciated, as well.

“I would like to encourage the public to go bulk,” she said, explaining that foods with a longer shelf life are particularly helpful. “We all have food-handling permits and can separate bulk rice, beans, pasta, oatmeal and other foods into smaller quantities.”

The bank is not set up to handle fresh meats in bulk, she said, but can accept jerky or canned meats.

And no matter what items the bank is handing out, Roloff said she dislikes the terms “poor, needy or low-income” when it comes to describing the people who receive food.

“We are helping our friends and neighbors,” she said.

The food bank is always in need of: boxed dinners, canned tuna or chicken,

cereal, diapers and baby wipes, dry beans, flour, fruit (canned or fresh), macaroni and cheese, pasta, peanut butter, rice, soup, toilet paper (and other personal care items like soap, razors and toothpaste), and vegetables, either canned or fresh.

“Every day, that door opens and food just keeps coming through,” she said.

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