Demand for food assistance in Snohomish County higher than at any point in pandemic, nonprofit says

Volunteers of America Western Washington (VOAWW), which helps supply 17 food banks in the Snohomish County Food Bank Coalition, said it is experiencing a “dire need” for donations of food and funding due to inflation.

Food banks across Snohomish County are scrambling to meet demand as requests for food and the numbers of drop-in clients have reached record levels, the organization said.

“We have not seen this many people come to us for help ever, even during the height of the pandemic in 2020 or 2021,” says Chris Hatch, senior director of hunger prevention at VOAWW. “We’ve seen a 138% increase in Everett since just April, and we cannot keep up.”

Inflation, along with donor and compassion fatigue, have created a perfect storm for nonprofits engaged in preventing hunger and food insecurity, the VOAWW said. Higher price tags for food items have eroded bulk purchasing power. Sources of funding that helped launch an unprecedented ramping up of food distribution in the past two years have begun to dry up. Donations of food and funds are down as people, governments and businesses tighten and adjust their budgets. And while food banks traditionally have focused on individuals and families that make lower incomes, clients from dual- and middle-income households have been coming for help more and more – many for the first time in their lives.

“We’ve heard the word ‘crisis’ tossed around a lot, but this really is a crisis,” said Steve Corsi, president and CEO of VOAWW. “People are hurting and hungry in our communities, and we’re running lower on resources. It’s challenging, and it’s starting to keep me up at night.”

Hatch said that if the current trajectory holds, VOAWW and other food banks may be forced to cut back on services and limit access to only those who can demonstrate the most need. “People are going to be turned away and going hungry if something doesn’t change soon,” Hatch said. “I am not OK with that.”

Donations to local food banks are encouraged. Donations to VOAWW’s Distribution Center, which provides food to 17 food banks and 18 meal programs across Snohomish County, can be made at www.voaww.org/donate by selecting “Food Bank – Distribution Center” under the “Donate To” category on the dropdown menu. Businesses that are interested in assisting VOAWW should contact Jessica Moore at 425-212-5320 or at jmoore@voaww.org.

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