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New leaders at community food bank

MARYSVILLE — Although Joyce Zeigen has stepped down as its director, the volunteers of the Marysville Community Food Bank want everyone to know that they’ll continue to carry on her work.

After more than two years with the food bank, Zeigen started her new position as partner program manager for Northwest Harvest Feb. 17, but not before sending letters of appreciation to the community.

“I am continually wowed by the spirit of giving in Marysville,” Zeigen wrote. “I love the food bank and will deeply miss the volunteers and the clients. I am glad my new job will still keep me in contact with the food bank, and I will also be volunteering to continue the ‘Giving Gardens’ program.”

The Giving Gardens program is one of many innovations that food bank volunteers Mary Haynes and JoAnn Sewell credit Zeigen with starting. Haynes and Sewell are jointly serving as interim directors of the food bank until the board selects a new long-term director from its list of applicants, which the interim co-directors expect could happen by May.

“The food bank at the YMCA was so small that we had to bag up people’s food and hand it to them,” Sewell said. “Here, we let them pick and choose, so if they don’t want something, they don’t have to take it and it’s there for someone who does. It cuts down on waste.”

While neither is new to the food bank, both admit that they’ve received a deeper education on how the food bank works as a result of their new role.

“We’ve learned more about when, where and how often we get our food,” Sewell said.

“The laptops here are different from my PC at home,” Haynes laughed, as she worked on a spreadsheet program tracking food bank data. “JoAnn and I are appearing at a lot of events together, so that people will associate both of us with the food bank.”

Haynes summarized the busy schedule of the food bank’s distribution days, starting with customers whose needs are categorized according to the sizes of their families. Younger and elderly volunteers escort the customers through the food bank’s shopping line and hand the customers’ choices to them, to keep the food shelves tidy and organized.

“Part of our selection is government commodities, which have been cut down to about half of what we need for a month,” Haynes said. “As such, we’ve had to cut our customers’ rations of those commodities in half.”

In addition to the clerks who keep the shopping line moving, volunteers are needed to move the food items themselves through a series of staging areas, according to the ages of the food items, so that customers are not given expired food items. If canned food items are no longer good, another set of volunteers empties the cans to recycle them, thus generating another much-needed revenue stream for the food bank’s operations.

“Last month, we almost ran out of meat,” Haynes said. “We hold onto things like canned hams and Spam.”

After selecting from their choice of canned and fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as the food bank’s abundance of ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese containers, customers can obtain limited supplies of diapers, baby foods and hygiene products from the deli foods area. Even before produce is placed on the shopping line, volunteers inspect it to make sure that it’s fit to eat.

“If it’s not, it’s sent to area pig farmers,” Haynes said. “Nothing is wasted. This place has to run like clockwork, and to keep on doing it we need more volunteers.”

The food bank is not only gearing up for its May 8 letter carrier collection drive, but it’s also looking for gleamers who can pick fruit from trees before they fall and spoil, and volunteers with valid driver’s licenses who can help deliver food to homebound customers. Haynes noted that the latter could be reimbursed for their mileage.

“Marysville is the most giving community I’ve seen in my life,” Sewell said.

“It is my sincere wish that you all maintain your current relationship with the food bank,” Zeigen wrote. “Each of you has played a unique role in making the food bank what it is today, and I thank you. Your donations, time, and press coverage has dramatically increased the amount of food given to the needy.”

The Marysville Community Food Bank is located at 4150 88th St. NE and can be reached by phone at 360-658-1054, or by logging onto http://marysvillecommunityfb.com.

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