WALLA WALLA - In the midst of economic recession, the number of households and individuals who visited Walla Walla food banks has risen dramatically in the past eight months, according to BMAC Food Bank statistics and local food bank managers.
Data compiled by the BMAC Food Bank shows the average number of households that visited Walla Walla food banks between November and June went up from an average of 730 households per month in 2008-2009, to close to 800 households in 2009-2010.
When compared to the past few years, the data seems to be consistent with a trend of increasing need.
"I started at St. Vincents about five years ago, and then a big month was like 175 to 195 families and I think last month we had 347 families, and we gave away close to 10 tons of food." said Jack Pinza, charities food manager at Saint Vincent de Paul's Food Bank, which has seen the biggest increase in households over the past few years.
Fortunately, statistics also show that food banks have increased their poundage of donated food - in 2009-2010 Walla Walla food banks received almost 100,000 pounds more food than in 2008-2009, increasing by about 31 percent.
BMAC Food Bank Director Gale McGhee said the increase
d poundage has been the result of donations from Wal-Mart and Albertsons, which together have given about 100,000 pounds of food within the past year. McGhee said food drives have also produced higher yields than in previous years.
While increased donations have helped food banks weather difficult economic times, food bank directors say they could always use more, especially high-protein meat and dairy items, fresh produce and canned goods - which have increased in price, making it harder for food banks to purchase them.
According to Pantry Shelf Manager Kate Rambo, most of the new faces at Pantry Shelf have been working folks and senior citizens who are finding it harder to make ends meet.
"We are seeing more people, and a lot of people have the picture that people who go to food banks don't have jobs or are lazy, but what we see is that a lot of the people do have jobs, or are retired, and are having trouble making their money stretch far enough," Rambo said.
Omar Ihmoda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.