Food banks hoping for happy holidays

By Pat Jenkins The Dispatch Turkeys for Thanksgiving are heading out the door at the food bank in Eatonville, where attention is also being paid to the next holiday. For the Thanksgiving meals tomorrow for families needing help, turkeys and potatoes donated by Arrow Lumber have been added to other items collected in a recent food drive. Families could start picking up their food Monday and Tuesday this week, with the final distribution today, said Lori Culver, executive director of Eatonville Family Agency, which operates the food bank. Now the agency can use help with stockpiling food for Christmas meal boxes. Each family will receive turkeys, side dishes, desserts and "all the fixings,GÇ¥ plus toys for children's Christmas gifts, Culver said. "We could really use help with these donations,GÇ¥ she said. The boxes will be handed out Dec. 10-12 for families needing only food and Dec. 17-19 for food and toy recipients. People who need a holiday meal can call the Family Agency at 360-832-6805 and be added to the list. Food banks are feeling the impact of cuts in federal-funded food aid for the needy. Benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) were reduced for more than a million Washington residents on Nov. 1 following the expiration Oct. 31 of the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. A family of three receiving the maximum monthly benefit amount will receive $29 less, dropping from $526 per month to $497. A temporary increase in the food benefits GÇô known as Basic Food in Washington - began in April 2009 to help people affected by the Great Recession and to help stimulate local economies. Households helped through the state-funded Food Assistance Program for legal immigrants also are affected by the reduction in federal funding, as those benefits are set at 75 percent of SNAP benefits. The economic downturn, described by some as the worst since the Great Depression, has made government-funded programs an important part of efforts by families and individuals to put enough food on their tables, state officials noted. "The temporary increase in benefits that was included in the federal stimulus bill has helped many people with basic food needs," said David Stillman, assistant secretary for the state Department of Social and Health Services' Economic Services Administration. Stillman said organizations that work with low-income individuals and families were urged to "spread the word about the reduction so that people can plan and prepare for it." In addition to Eatonville Family Agency, an independent non-profit organization, a local food bank is run by FISH Food Banks of Pierce County in Graham. FISH is a non-profit operator of seven food banks in the county. Through September, they'd assisted 414,340 individuals this year, according to FISH officials.


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