MARYSVILLE – Putting the horse before the cart is not the way you normally transport food.
But Marysville Community Food Bank director Dell Deierling admits he probably did just that.
In July, the food bank started letting clients come in three times a month, instead of two. Deierling said to accomplish that goal, the food bank needs $10,000 more a month in monetary and/or food donations.
Increasing the number of days was a goal set after a survey in 2015 to grow a “Hunger-Free Community.”
But the food bank jumped into it before it had a chance to ask the community for more help.
“I was anxious about this,” Deierling said.
Amy Howell, the assistant director, added, “He lost a few nights sleep.”
But staff told him to relax, things will work out. He admitted they always do. “I’ve seen it happen” time and time again, he said.
It happened this time, too.
Alderwood Community Church in Lynnwood donated 7,076 pounds of food and $955. Why? They want to spread goodwill as they are planning to start a church at Cedarcrest Middle School in Marysville.
Also, Grocery Outlet sponsored a food drive last month. Last year the food bank received about 1,000 pounds from it. This year, it was 6,198 pounds.
That helped the food bank meet the increased demand for 72 families who came three times.
The food bank regularly receives help from many places. Their largest donors are Albertsons, Walmart and Haggens, but many other stores participate.
“It’s a blessing,” Deierling said. “It’s extra work that we extremely appreciate for the health of the community.”
About 20 local churches donate food and money. It also has received grants from the city of Marysville, Boeing and Best Buy, along with state funding and food items from the federal government. They are also helped by individual donations and clubs like the Master Gardeners.
Howell works with the school backpack program that provides food for children every Friday to help keep them fed over the weekend. Twenty Marysville district schools are involved, plus two in Lakewood. When she started in 2012, there were just 25 students. There are 400 now.
“We’re shocked how fast the program grew,” she said.
Last year, 18 of the kids were homeless. “What hurts the most is finding out how many homeless there are,” Howell said. “It breaks my heart.”
The homeless receive Meals Ready to Eat, or MRE’s. Howell said a student tried one and said it tasted fine. Later, he asked for another one “because he knew he wouldn’t have dinner that night.”
Also set up are pantries at five high schools where students can get needed food. Middle schools hope to get them soon.
Howell said a big need is drivers to take food to the schools.
Howell said she quit her full-time job to be part of the food bank.
“You have no idea what’s going on,” she said. “It’s not just in Third World countries anymore.”
The food bank has about 250 volunteers, but there is always a need for more. They will lose some, for example, when school starts.
“We seem to scrape by every day,” Deierling said, adding the Mormon church always comes up big.
JoAnn Sewell, the volunteer coordinator, said a few of the volunteers are court-ordered to do so for community service.
“It feels good to help them pay back the community and better themselves,” Sewell said, adding, “A lot of them stick” as volunteers.
She said some of them tell her “it’s almost a blessing” to be sent there because it’s a place where people care about each other.
“We’re a big family,” Sewell said. “If one of us is hurting, we’re all hurting.”
Sewell said she became involved after her husband died nine years ago.
“I was a wreck for a year,” she said. “I prayed to God, and the next day saw an ad for the food bank.”
Customers go through the facility with a volunteer. Clients pick what they want, but there are limits depending on how much of an item is available. Clients can choose bread, pastries, canned food, dried food, frozen meat, produce, deli items, dairy, diapers, baby food, flowers, books and more.
While some come as much as possible, others come just once a year.
“It’s a bridge to get across troubled waters,” Deierling said, adding the clientele is up 1 percent compared with last year.
Anyone can go to the food bank. “Need is based on your own judgment,” Deierling said.
Volunteer Kym Johnsen helps make the donated food go as far as it can. She heads the volunteers who separate, sort and inspect the food. One thing she pays attention to is the date marks. She said many foods are good long after the date as long as they are stored correctly. She said some companies put dates on food so consumers will throw it out.
“It’s the psychology of it,” Johnsen said, adding there is no standardized dating system required by the government.
Clients are able to decide against taking post-dated items, but “we don’t want to be wasteful,” Johnsen said.
Volunteer Terry Noteboom joined when he retired. He normally greets people at the front door. He likes that because he gets to talk to everybody. But on this day he was taking a client around the store.
“If they’re down I get to cheer them up, and if they’re cheered up we can have a good time,” Noteboom said.
John McLoughlin said he just started going to the food bank last month, and he already has been able to stockpile some items.
He said years ago he was homeless, but he is now getting help with disability from the Veterans Administration.
McLoughlin said the additional time each month will help a lot.
“It saves a couple-hundred bucks easy,” he said.
“I can get what I like – whether it’s a nice big chocolate cake or something to munch on.”