It’s estimated that in the month of April, 1.6 million Washingtonians relied on their local food bank in some fashion. That figure is expected to cross the two million mark during the month of May. As the fight against the coronavirus continues and with many people out of work, or unable to get into work, food banks statewide have been stretched thin.

On Thursday, Derek Sandison, Director of the Washington state Department of Agriculture said not only has food bank clientele doubled, but it did so incredibility quickly, adding to the stress. He noted COVID-19 forced food banks to transition from a locations where customers could pick up what they needed, to providing prepackaged food boxes. He said that’s changed the types of food handed out to Washingtonians in need.

"In the past, we always wanted to make sure we had plenty of perishable products, milk, eggs, cheese vegetables, fruits and that sort of thing available, but because of the volume of materials we have to pass through our facilities it overwhelmed cold storage capabilities.”

Sandison said they have yet to see federal coronavirus assistance, either from CARES or other programs. But, thankfully, because of good working relationships, they’ve been able to meet current needs.

And Sandison anticipates as 2020 continues, the Washington farming community will be able to offer additional help.

“Fruits, vegetables and so on.  We’re already starting to incorporate milk, the Darigold Corporation has been very generous in terms of providing milk.  So, one of the primary focuses of what we’re trying to do is to improve our ability to store products, cold storage, provide refrigerated transportation as well.”

Sandison said WSDA anticipates federal assistance will be made available starting in June, but it may only cover 25% of Washington’s needs.

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