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Food banks brace for tough holiday season

POULSBO — Although she sees the good her organization does for those in need daily, Fishline Executive Director Tricia Sullivan can’t help but worry when she sees the bare spots on the food bank’s shelves.

With the busy holiday season already approaching, statistics paint a picture of great need for Fishline this year.

Sullivan said regular client services are up 37 percent in 2002, owing mainly to continuing layoffs and cut backs at businesses across the state. Staff expect the needs for Thanksgiving and Christmas to be at least that much higher.

“We’re hoping the community will dig deep and help out neighbors, it seems like everyone’s struggling a bit these days,” Sullivan said.

Staff at the center, which serves residents of the North Kitsap School District, expected the jump in need in the community after the Sept. 11 tragedy last year. However, they also expected that spike to gradually diminish until service levels were back to normal.

Sullivan said this has not happened and she doesn’t see an end to these increased needs at least in the short term. In October alone, the food bank prepared emergency food boxes for 202 families and its daily perishable stock of items like bread, dairy and produce received 1,400 visits — a huge increase from years past.

She added that the face of need in Poulsbo is not much different from any other member of the community. Most Fishline clients are working families that typically require a small bit of help each month to make ends meet.

“That’s our typical client — at least one person in the family has a job but it’s not enough to pay all the bills,” Sullivan said. “About 47 percent of our clients are children under the age of 18, which is pretty amazing. That always tugs at my heart strings. We need to make sure children have good, healthy food.”

Sullivan said there are several ways North Kitsap residents can help make the holidays, or everyday, easier for those in need.

In a general sense, Fishline is always looking for donations of money or food. Items that the food bank staffers particularly like to see come through their doors as donations are things like peanut butter, canned soup, stew and chili and laundry detergent.

These items are a little more costly, but when the bank doesn’t receive them as donations it must spend its money to purchase them all the same.

“Donations of these items helps us stretch our resources,” Sullivan said.

The center is also starting to stockpile holiday food items such as pie crusts and fillings, stuffing mixes and even frozen turkey. Individuals can donate these items to be used in holiday food baskets, or can choose to sponsor one or more families for a holiday dinner.

Sullivan explained that holiday dinner sponsors commit to putting together an entire holiday dinner basket for each family they sponsor including things like ham or turkey, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, vegetables, cranberry sauce and rolls.

“Everything they’d need to have a nice family meal for the holidays,” Sullivan said.

Fishline also sponsors a toy shop each December where parents in need can come in and choose a gift for their children. Sullivan said the staff tries to make sure every child receives a toy and a book and donations of these items will be taken until Dec. 13. She added that there is always a particular need for items appropriate for children ages 10-13.

And, of course, Sullivan stressed, families in need are always encouraged to come into the food bank and sign up for help.

Any donations can be dropped off at Fishline, 18916 3rd Avenue Northeast, any weekday when the food bank is open. Tax-deductible monetary donations can also be mailed to P.O. Box 1517, Poulsbo, WA 98370. More information about Fishline or its services are available by calling (360) 779-5190.

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