A Simple Gesture aims to fill up Arlington Food Bank all year

ARLINGTON – Arlington Food Bank volunteers are busy as elves and shelves are amply stocked with donations for the holidays, but coordinators think they’ve come across a simple idea to make giving a year-round habit.

It comes in a handy green bag.

Starting Feb. 10, the food bank will launch A Simple Gesture, a door-to-door food collection initiative that will provide a steady supply of food to help feed the hungry in the Arlington area.

People sign up to donate, are given an empty bag to fill with non-perishable foods and leave on their front porch. Every other month on a pre-designated day, volunteer drivers will pick it up, replace it with a new one, and drop off the donations at the food bank.

Faith Martian, a registered dietician, is coordinating the initiative. Martian is already enrolling participants and getting the word out.

“The sooner we get the bags out the better off we’ll be,” she said. “Giving this time of year is great in Arlington, but with this program we hope we can get people in the habit of donating a little year-round.”

The food bank purchased 1,500 cloth bags, Martian is distributing brochures and flyers now, and she welcomes presentations to local groups, service clubs, churches and businesses to talk about the program.

She wouldn’t ask young people to do anything she wouldn’t have her own children do. This food bank venture is a family affair.

Her daughters, a freshman and sophomore at Washington State University, and son, a sophomore at Arlington High School, will be helping out with coordination and computer work. Her husband will be doing some of the pickup routes while she seeks to draw more volunteers to help out.

Martian has faith that the Arlington community will step up. “People are already saying they will bring it to their churches.”A Simple Gesture is “good all around for building community, and making people aware of the food bank and what they do.”

The food bank serves 400 families and 1,200 people. A Simple Gesture is active in 30 communities across the country, including several in Western Washington.

Anacortes is one success story. The group’s first pickup in October 2015 recorded 310 donors and 4,000 pounds of food and toiletries with a value of about $7,500 collected for the Salvation Army food bank, which serves about 175 families a month in Anacortes and La Conner, organizers said. The program has since grown to 100 volunteers, 500 donors and collects 30,000 pounds of food.

A Simple Gesture kicked off at the Marysville Food Bank in May. Prior to Thanksgiving, the third pickup of participating A Simple Gesture participants collected 14,577 pounds.

Martian said she is looking for steering committee members, volunteers for food collection, drivers, people with computer experience, and folks who just want a green bag to buy food for their community. An average driving route typically includes 20-30 stops. Elsewhere, parents and grandparents have taken up the mantle as drivers while their kids and grandkids do the pickup.

To register, or for details, email asimplegesturearlington@gmail.com or call 360-545-3538.

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