During the pandemic, the high demand in grocery stores and the lack of volunteers in food banks have put a huge strain on organizations that feed the hungry and serve some of the most vulnerable communities in the state. In 2020, at least 1.6 million Washingtoners were dependent on food aid, double the number from last year. This could grow exponentially if unemployment is still high.
This is something to keep an eye on over the holidays, usually at a time when nonprofits are seeing an extra boost. Most food banks in the Seattle area are closed for donations on Thanksgiving. However, many require donations to maintain their capacity. Cash is always a good idea, but for those with groceries to give, some places still accept it and have listed some items that are most needed. Call or check the official websites for drop-off times and COVID logs.
For a more complete list of local famine relief organizations, see Northwest Harvest and Eater Seattle’s How to Help guide.
Ballard Food Bank
This organization was founded in the late 1970s and has been supplying needy families in the region for decades. It has a financial program to prevent evictions. Hours of operation are Monday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 10.30 a.m., Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 10.30 a.m., Thursday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. (closed on Thanksgiving) and there is a drive through service.
Items needed: Soups and chilli, peanut butter, single grain and whole grain cereals, 8 ounce storage-stable juice boxes, storage-stable milk boxes, storage-stable alternative milk
West Seattle Food Bank
The West Seattle-based group, which addresses food insecurity and systemic injustice issues, partnered with the West Seattle Helpline earlier this spring to provide more all-round service to the local homeless population. The opening times are from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, but closed on Thanksgiving. Donors are advised to show up an hour before opening to make it easier to drive into the garage.
Items needed: Dry goods, oils, vinegars, meat or vegan proteins
This North Seattle-based emergency services and grocery bank operates the Lake City and Bitter Lake neighborhoods. In addition to accepting donations, the company is actively seeking volunteers to collect groceries, make deliveries, organize grocery trips, and do other tasks. Interested parties can email [email protected] for inquiries. There is a 30-minute donation parking zone outside – those with smaller items can put them on a green rack or tag a volunteer to help with larger donations.
Items needed: Cans of 10 grams of protein, eggs (the grocery bank has a large refrigerator), paper bags
Rainier Valley Food Bank
This group from south Seattle has switched to delivery services to help the community during the pandemic, including at-risk students. Grocery delivery is available to everyone within the Seattle city limits, regardless of age, health, or income level. The organization has social workers who can assist with temporary housing and other needs. Drop-offs are Tuesday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with low contact options.
Items needed: Rice, pasta, cooking oil, fish sauce, diabetic foods, baby foods, injera bread, canned soups, and vegetables
U District Food Bank
For over four decades, this U District-based organization has served many neighborhoods in northeast Seattle, and currently has a home delivery program that reaches more than 200 families in the home each week and has partnered with nearby schools to offer free meals . There is also a Street Bean-operated professional skills training cafe and a rooftop garden that grows produce for the grocery bank. Donors can drive to the Roosevelt garage next to the office and locate the back door during Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday drop-off times from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. (closed on Thanksgiving).
Items needed: Canned fruit, canned chicken, tuna and salmon, soups and stews, peanut or other nut butters (particularly crispy), storage-stable milk and milk alternatives (rice, soy, hemp, etc.)
This food insecure resource in South King County started in a Tukwila church but has moved outdoors with a new drive through service during the pandemic. It has grown from 50 households a day to more than 500 and could use donations to keep up with demand (open 9 am-3pm except Sundays; closed on Thanksgiving). Items needed: Anything that is not perishable, as well as toiletries and masks
Renewal Food Bank
Founded in 1998 and based in Bellevue, the non-profit organization is a member of the Northwest Harvest and Food Lifeline hunger relief network and currently serves nearly 300 families each week. COVID adjustments include minimizing food handling while allowing indoor shopping. The opening times are Mondays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Donors are advised to show up one hour in advance to hand them in. perishable items can be left at the door.
Items needed: Baking ingredients (including brownies, muffins and cake mixes), granola bars, soup
YWCA Central Area Food Bank
Dedicated to tackling systemic inequalities and racism, this branch of the YWCA, dedicated to the Central District, distributes free grocery and grocery boxes weekly to more than 240 low-income families and people living in the community with housing insecurity. It is open for donations on Mondays from 9 p.m. to 12 p.m. and Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Items needed: Pasta, rice, muesli, cooking spices