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Larsen visits M'ville Food Bank

From left, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen surveys the Marysville Community Food Bank, with Marysville Community Food Bank Director Joyce Ziegen acting as his tour guide, Feb. 19. - Kirk Boxleitner
From left, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen surveys the Marysville Community Food Bank, with Marysville Community Food Bank Director Joyce Ziegen acting as his tour guide, Feb. 19.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

MARYSVILLE — U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen paid a visit to the Marysville Community Food Bank to hear about local needs, while relaying information about how current doings in Congress might be able to help.

Marysville Community Food Bank Director Joyce Zeigen greeted Larsen on her own, since it was an off-day for the Food Bank. Larsen had learned that the South Whidbey Food Bank's demand had increased 100 percent between December of 2007 and December of 2008, but Zeigen reported only a 20-percent increase in the Marysville Community Food Bank's demand, between January of 2008 and January of 2009.

Both Larsen and Zeigen were unsure as to the cause of the Marysville Community Food Bank's slightly lower demand in February of this year, since as Larsen said, "The president only just signed the stimulus on Tuesday." Zeigen suggested that the Food Bank might have had a greater increase in demand last year, if not for a winter that prevented many of its customers from making the trip out to the Food Bank's former location.

Zeigen praised fellow charity organizations for their desire to contribute, but expressed the wish that more of the organizations that have recently been started would check to ensure that their activities aren't redundant to those of the Food Bank, because otherwise, "we just wind up competing for the same resources."

Larsen informed Zeigen that a temporary two-year funding increase of 13.6 percent in the food stamp program is on its way, which he explained will increase benefits to 633,000 Washington state citizens. Larsen noted that this will not increase eligibility for the food stamp program, but Zeigen believes that the increased benefits will result in more people who are already eligible for food stamps actually availing themselves of the program, since a number of those who are currently eligible for food stamps are eligible for almost zero actual benefits from the program.

Zeigen estimated that the Food Bank serves approximately 750 distinct families, many of whom are returning to the Food Bank after months away.

"I know they've been gone for a while when they say, 'Aren't you by the YMCA anymore?'" Zeigen said, referring to the Food Bank's former facility.

Larsen heard from Zeigen that the Food Bank receives some meat from Northwest Harvest, paper products from Kimberly-Clark and other donations from the Glacier Foundation, Boeing and other private donors. The local Rotary and the Tulalip Tribes donate thousands of dollars annually, but items like dairy products are still often available only in "feast or famine" quantities, according to Zeigen.

While Zeigen would have liked for the Food Bank's new facility, located on the St. Mary's Catholic Church property, to be a "green building," she's had to settle for making it economical, which is why it tends to be cool inside. One part of the building that's intentionally cool is the refrigerator and freezer area, which includes a new freezer donated by Fred Meyer. Zeigen would like to be able to save enough of the remaining hams inside the freezer for Easter, but she admitted to Larsen that this is an unlikely goal. Zeigen comparison-shops for cheaper food when she can, and recently received $1,000 in food cards from a local Albertsons.

"So, 85 percent of your funding is coming from the community," Larsen said.

"And they really come through," Zeigen said. "You couldn't believe how generous these people are, leading up to the holidays. It's in January and February that we find ourselves saying, 'Uh-oh,' and crunching numbers."

Even as Larsen echoed President Barack Obama's warning that tough times still lie ahead, he promised that Congress would be delivering aid in areas such as unemployment extensions and health and human services funding.

"I'm seeing the same mess hitting an increasing number of families," Larsen said. "In the last four months, this recession has accelerated, which only underscores the need for a recovery package and quick action. It's a reminder that the economy doesn't always grow, but we will get through this together, and we will be stronger for it."

'Giveaway to Fight Hunger'

Zeigen informed The Marysville Globe that the Marysville Community Food Bank is participating in the 12th annual $1 million "Giveaway to Fight Hunger." For every pound or dollar donated to the Food Bank between March 1 and April 30, the Feinstein Foundation will match the donation, up to $40,000. Zeigen asked all donors to specify that the donations they make during March and April are part of the Feinstein Campaign.

Food donations can be brought to the Food Bank's location at 4150 88th St. NE in Marysville, from 8-11 a.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and from 2-6 p.m. Tuesdays. Financial donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 917, Marysville, WA 98270, or brought to the Food Bank during donation hours. For more information, call the Food Bank at 360-658-1054, or log onto its Web site.

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