April 29, 2022

Block Grant Supports Three Positions at Lake Bay Food Bank

At Key Peninsula Community Services, employee Judy Carter readies supplies at the food bank’s bread closet.

The open-air closet is open to anyone to come get bread during business hours. It is just one part of the food bank’s operation that averages serving 1,000 families each month in Lake Bay, a small community in a faraway corner of Pierce County.

But the food bank has seen a drastic uptick in need, says Manager Brett Higgins. In March 2022, they saw their highest number ever served: 1,222 families equaling 2,500 people. The majority of those being served are ages 55-plus.

And while the need certainly increased during the Covid 19 pandemic, it’s only getting more significant as effects from it rage on with rising food costs and inflation.

Twice a month families can come in for boxes of food and other needs like toiletries, pet food, and cleaning supplies. There are different streams of donations, with federal commodities people can come weekly for those donations of canned goods and household supplies.

Because Lake Bay is at an epicenter of three counties: Pierce, Mason and Kitsap, anyone who shows up can get food, regardless of what county they live in.

“If you need food, you need food,” Higgins says.

The food bank also tries to offer things like gas cards, but those run out quickly and are few and far between. They’re currently trying to work out a program for vouchers for customers to fill up at a nearby gas station.
A handful of employees keeps this part time operation running thanks to federal funding.

Above: Employee Judy Carter works in the Bread Closet at the Key Peninsula Food Bank. Bottom Left: Employee Diana Nole fills a cart with food items for a customer at the food bank.

Through a contract with the Washington State Department of Commerce, Pierce County received a Community Development Block Grant for Covid Hunger Relief to fund positions at food banks.

Through this grant, Workforce Central, in partnership with Valeo Vocation, recruits for these positions directly related to feeding people in Pierce County. The grant is specifically helping organizations that were previously assigned National Guard members during the pandemic.

The grant funds 23 full-time positions that are directly related to food distribution. It is intended to support those with low and moderate income.

At Key Peninsula the grant is funding three, part time positions including Carter’s. She started in February and for her, she said it’s been a lifesaver. After caring for her elderly mother for 10 years, she found herself in need of a job after her passing.

Carter lives just down the road and found the location and hours a perfect fit.

“It’s such a great program,” Carter says. “I love it.”

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