Empty Shelves Prompts City to Plead for Food Pantry Donations
The level of demand on the city's emergency food stores for needy families rose 209 percent from levels two years ago.
Record demand for assistance from Mercer Island families to simply put food on the table is forcing the Mercer Island Food Pantry to issue a plea for help to replace their depleted stocks.
The Food Pantry, a service offered by the Mercer Island Youth and Family Services (YFS), provides basic food to Mercer Island families who need help. Despite several food drives and ongoing help from the local community, supplies are flying off the shelves like never before. Last year, use of the Food Pantry has more than doubled compared to 2008. In 2010, according to YFS, 971 requests for food were met by the Pantry. The increased demand, say officials, is due to the continued economic hardship felt by local residents and across the Puget Sound.
Family Assistance Coordinator Cheryl Manriquez said there are certain food stuffs that the city tries to always keep stocked, such as protein-rich foods like peanut butter and canned tuna that provide the most energy based on volume.
"Usually protein items are things we're trying to keep in stock," she said. "Those are the things we try not to let that go empty. Fruit we can kind of let go. If we get a little low on that, then we get a little low. It just changes so quickly."
This month, Manriquez said the pantry needs to restock the following non-perishable items: canned fruit, peanut butter and jelly, hearty soups, spice packets, white and brown rice, ramen noodles, and white and red pasta sauces. Throughout the fall and into Christmas, the Food Pantry was well-stocked after consecutive food drives—Month of Concern for the Hungry and the Firefighters Food Drive around Christmastime. But Manriquez said donations from big food drives only go so far in the face on record demand, lasting around six weeks.
Last summer, teenager Isabel Jamerson and the Mercer Island Farmers Market instituted a gleaning program that set aside approximately 8,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. Then in October, local residents donated 8,007 pounds of food and nearly $1,700 for the Month of Concern, contributing generously to over 60,000 pounds and nearly $12,000 raised across the Eastside.
"I would like to say to you, Mercer Island, thank you for your continued support for those who are less fortunate," said Arthur Lee, Executive Director of the Emergency Feeding program of Seattle and King County who directed the distribution of donations last year.
Mercer Island Albertson's manager John Gillespie is still offering shoppers the opportunity to buy a bag of groceries at or below wholesale price in the checkout aisle for the Food Pantry. He sent his most recent delivery a few weeks ago down to the Luther Burbank Administration Building in Luther Burbank Park, located at 2040 84th Avenue SE.
"We're happy to give back to our generous community," he said.
Donations to the Food Pantry are accepted Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
According to a city press release, the Food Pantry is a community program of YFS with services tailored to support every Islander, including counselors in the schools, senior outreach and advocacy, affordable professional counseling, youth development/VOICE, arrested youth and early intervention programs, family assistance and a thriving thrift shop.
For additional information, please contact Family Assistance Coordinator Cheryl Manriquez at (206) 275-7869.