Food banks offer help during the holidays

NORTH KITSAP — In the midst of the holiday season, with unemployment high, many in North Kitsap are asking for help in keeping their pantries stocked.

That’s where Kingston’s ShareNet and the North Kitsap Fishline come in. The two food banks have been busy for the past several weeks, and do not plan on slowing down until after the end of the year.

“During the holiday season all we do is move,” said Sharenet Food Bank Manager Kathy Melseth said.

The two food banks plan to send out a total of 650 holiday food boxes this Christmas. The boxes will be passed out Dec. 21 at both food banks, but anyone who does not sign up for a box can collect food the following day at ShareNet and on Dec. 23 at Fishline.

“My theory is as long as I have food I will give it to you,” Melseth said.

Many people are using the food banks for the first time this year. Melseth said she has seen dozens of families sign up for food boxes that have not done so in the past. Still, she hears stories from those families of others who need help but refuse to ask for it.

“A lot of people have so much pride they can’t see past it,” she said. “I just don’t know how to reach them.”

In addition to passing out the Christmas food boxes, Fishline has a family adoption program, in which one family can help another by donating specific gifts.

With such a high demand for their services, the food banks need help keeping their own shelves stocked.

“It’s still going out as fast as it’s coming in,” Volunteer Holiday Coordinator Kathy Smith said of Fishline’s food supplies.

Smith and Melseth said donations are lower this year compared to years past, and the biggest shortfall is in the category of side dishes for Christmas dinners.

“We’ve had a lot of food coming in, but it’s not nearly what it’s been in the past,” Melseth said.

Melseth and Smith said things like yams, chicken broth, canned milk, cranberry sauce, stuffing, pumpkin pie and canned fruit make for good donations this time of year. Cash donations are also helpful, because the food banks can buy supplies in bulk, which means they can get food at a lower cost.

Another way people can help is by volunteering their time at the food banks or at ShareNet and Fishline’s thrift shops.

“A lot of people are realizing that giving time is just as good as giving money,” Smith said.

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