SEDRO-WOOLLEY, Wash., Apr. 13, 2020—

In March, Community Action sent more food to local food bank customers than ever before, and the supply is set to increase.

In March, Skagit area food banks gave out 387,523 lbs. of food to hungry families, with a record-breaking 320,322 lbs. of that provided by the Skagit Food Distribution Center (SFDC). Serving the entire county, Community Action operates the SFDC as the central hub for purchasing large quantities of food, and the cold and dry storage for most of the food going to local food banks. In February, the SFDC supplied 70% of food bank stock, and that jumped to 83% in March. In addition to getting much of their food supplies from the SFDC, local food banks currently also rely on grocery rescue, food purchases and direct donations for 17-30% of the food they give away.

“While food banks may not be receiving as much grocery rescue, the Food Distribution Center got more food out last month than ever before through our network of food bank partners,” said Cole Bitzenburg, Food Manager for Community Action. “We are on pace to provide more than 400,000 lbs. to Skagit families in April — another record amount of food going through food banks.” 

The forecast for food supplies is bright, Bitzenburg said. “Through all of this, our normal sources for food being shipped into the county have not been interrupted, and through everyone’s efforts those numbers are increasing.” Community Action received a recent $100,000 grant for food from the Jack & Shirley McIntyre Foundation for food purchases. In addition to regular orders with Northwest Harvest and Food Lifeline in March, the SFDC purchased over $50,000 worth of dry goods from additional suppliers in anticipation of increased needs in April and May. “That’s the equivalent of two additional semi trucks of food beyond the two semi trucks of food we get each week,” Bitzenburg said. Community Action also has contracts with Skagit County farmers to purchase 7,200 lbs. of nutritious local produce to send through the emergency food system. 

“There are lots of people who’ve never had to ask for help before,” Bitzenburg said. “We’re here for them, just like we’re here for food bank customers every day. We’re proud of how this community is rising to the challenge.” In 2019, the SFDC fed 54,000 people, and 20% more Skagit households currently rely on food banks during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In addition to being the hub for most of the food going to food banks, the SFDC provides 260 boxes of food to low-income seniors every month through the USDA Commodity Supplemental Food Program. One senior who receives a monthly CSFP box said, “It means the world to get fresh food I can cook myself. I don’t know what I’d do without Community Action.” Before COVID closed schools, 200 kids got nutritious meals each week through the SFDC’s school backpack program, a partnership with Burlington Edison School District and Burlington AM Rotary that is temporarily on hold. 

Need help? For up-to-date information about days and hours of all food banks in Skagit County served by the Food Distribution Center, check the COVID-19 updates at https://www.communityactionskagit.org. Want to help? Go to www.communityactionskagit.org/want-to-help