UB File Photo: Waiting for the next food seekers to come through the tables of fresh items, Pantry Shelf manager Tom Galloway listens as the couple registers with the organization handing out food in the basement of First Presbyterian Church on Friday afternoon (Friday, July 27, 2012.)
Photo by Matthew Zimmerman Banderas.
The Blue Mountain Action Council Food Bank delivered 443,842 pounds of food during 12,665 family visits in 2012, and 466,073 during 16,426 family visits in 2013 to food banks within city limits.
WALLA WALLA — In the world of food bank users, it’s more about what makes the tummy happy than concern over nutrition. Potatoes over produce, pasta instead of pears.
That’s been Tom Galloway’s experience as the manager of Pantry Shelf, one of the town’s four free grocery programs.
“Several clients say they choose food on what’s more filling,” he said.
Food means a lot to Galloway, a retired chef who was hired to run Pantry Shelf in 2011. Yet he’s not on a mission to preach nutrition or change the way anyone eats. In an effort to offer better and more choices for the 90 household heads who “shop” at the food bank in the basement of First Presbyterian Church every week, he cooked up the “More Protein, Less Starch” program.
To that end, the program received a start-up grant of $3,500 from Blue Mountain Community Foundation last fall.
Protein, an important building block of nutrition, has been in shorter supply at local food banks lately. Dwindling cash donations have reduced meat purchases — everything from fresh fish to potted beef.
That’s true at the disbursement pantries as well as the umbrella organization of local food giveaways, Blue Mountain Action Council Food Bank.
She has had to rely on donations of cash or product to supply canned meat, noted Gail McGhee, manager of the BMAC Food Bank on Cherry Street. The government commodities she can buy from regional food banks do not include chicken, deviled ham, Vienna sausages, Spam or any other canned meat. There is the occasional distribution of frozen chicken and turkeys, she noted.
Not to look gift poultry in the mouth, but the bags of chicken coming in at the moment can be a challenge, McGhee said.
“The federal government has been sending us a lot of frozen chicken,” she said. “And it’s nice, but it is in batches of leg and thigh quarters, five to a bag. Sometimes 10.”
It ends up being a big helping and those packages cannot be thawed, according to regulations. That uses the chicken up faster, more going to fewer families, she explained.
“We’re grateful to have it, but it’s very difficult to distribute.”
The shortages and uncertainty of donated groceries is what Galloway hopes to address with the grant award.
“Money is the thing we need, so we can go out and buy protein,” he said. “Typically when people go out and buy something (for the food bank), they end up buying the things we don’t have a problem getting, like canned corn, canned beans. Macaroni and cheese and ramen are huge. When (grocery stores) are having their bulk food sales, we end up getting the things that aren’t moving.
“We always have creamed corn,” he said with a laugh.
Buying a whole pork loin or large beef roast on sale, for example, would allow the food bank to process that meat into family-size portions, While the details on how to accomplish that are still percolating, the Pantry Shelf has the refrigeration and volunteers at the ready, Galloway said.
And the clients, more of whom show up by the week, he added.
“We see that it is growing. People are being laid off and taken to part time. And then the food stamp back. We have seen a pretty fair increase.”