Community Action’s Skagit Food Distribution Center gets large shipments of food to help families at every food bank in Skagit County. (Photo credit: Well Fed Farms, Erik Olson)

SEDRO-WOOLLEY, Wash., Apr. 3, 2020

Hungry families will continue to get nutritious food from local food banks, thanks to a $100,000 gift from the Jack & Shirley McIntyre Foundation to Community Action of Skagit County for their Food Distribution Center (FDC), one of the essential services helping people affected by COVID-19. The foundation hopes the donation inspires others to give.

Every day, the Skagit Food Distribution Center is the core food security hub for 15 food banks and meal programs in every Skagit County community. The FDC purchases large shipments of nutritious food from suppliers such as Food Lifeline, Northwest Harvest, and local farmers, and then distributes it to independent partner food pantries. “We helped nourish over 54,000 individuals last year,” said Cole Bitzenburg, Community Action Food Manager. Special FDC programs provide food for home-bound seniors, the Concrete Community Meal Program, and food backpack programs for school children.

During disasters, the FDC partners with federal and state agencies, and Skagit Emergency Management, to ensure the emergency food system doesn’t stop. The FDC was a key link for isolated towns cut off after the 2014 Oso mudslide. “Now, during COVID-19, we’re seeing a 20% increase in demand at all our partner food pantries,” Bitzenburg said. “The McIntyre Foundation grant ensures our local food pantry partners will be able to meet the need.” According to Bitzenburg, many families that have never had to ask for help are going to food banks for the first time. “With so many people laid off, the FDC helps them put their money to other basic needs, like rent or medicine. Our job is to get food to everyone in the county who needs it.”

“It is important that all food banks and meal programs that work with Community Action’s Food Distribution Center know that these funds are for all of them and will be distributed to all as needed,” said Sarah Hess, a member of the board of the McIntyre Foundation. In addition to food, the grant will pay for supplies such as boxes, bags, gloves, sanitizers and soap, to increase safety for food bank customers, volunteers and staff. The FDC has been a leader for local food pantries in learning about and implementing new COVID-19 safety guidance from the USDA and Skagit Public Health.

“We hope other donors may be inspired to donate,” Hess said. “We fear this will not be enough money to take care of the longer-term food needs that will arise.” 

Following public health guidance and to limit in-person contact, Community Action is not encouraging food drives at this time. “Cash donations help more than anything,” Bitzenburg said. “One dollar can purchase seven pounds of food.” In addition, unrestricted donations help every food bank in the county by helping the Distribution Center with the costs of transport, refrigeration, and keeping the lights on. 

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

For more, see this story in the Skagit Valley Herald.