North County Community Food Bank prepares for the holidays

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As Thanksgiving approaches, the North County Community Food Bank in Battle Ground has stepped up to the plate to prepare food for the holidays for people in need.

Executive Director Liz Cerveny said the food bank offers clients two food boxes a month, which are given to the clients outside of the facility because of the limited space. The food bank, which currently serves between 750 to 800 families, will be open the day before Thanksgiving to provide people with holiday fare, but will be closed on Thanksgiving day and the following Friday.

Cerveny said the food bank can always use additional donations of food and funds, like cornbread mix, canned sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce.

“We can buy more with the money than people can at the store,” Cerveny said.

The food bank has seen an increase in client applications because the distribution of stimulus checks have ceased and people have struggled to pay for their rent and utility bills, she said.

The number of applications for clients month-to-month has increased by 5%, according to Cerveny. In the last few months, it’s jumped dramatically.

“Currently, we’re juggling and trying to make sure that everyone who comes to us gets what they need and gets connected with social service agencies and resources that are available in Clark County,” Cerveny said.

During the winter months, she said the most needed food items include low-salt soups, cereal, oatmeal, rice, and low-sodium canned vegetables and beans. While the food bank doesn’t provide a box of supplies specific to Thanksgiving, many of the items donated are applicable to the holiday, Cerveny said, since the two monthly boxes each client gets include around 180 pounds of food.

Ann Karr, a volunteer, said the food bank does what they can to provide Thanksgiving food whenever possible.

“If we have something like pumpkins or cranberries and people ask for it, we try to accommodate them if we have it,” Karr said. “With COVID, everything changed because we used to organize with the local churches, but right now, we’re doing the best we can. Donations are also down across the country because so many people are in need of food, so at least there’s nothing going to waste.”

Due to the pandemic, only one client would be allowed in the food bank at a time because of social distancing measures, so the food bank has adapted to serve more people. 

“It’s just not effective, which is why we just do curbside,” she said. “We’d have a line of people standing out there in the cold otherwise.”

The food bank has 78 volunteers and the facility is always looking for more. Cerveny said they are open Monday through Friday and have morning and afternoon shifts available. The pandemic has created a slight shortage of volunteers, especially because people with health issues who are more susceptible to the virus need to be isolated.

“We also have to manage how many we have on each shift so that we ourselves are doing the social distancing requirement and keeping everybody safe, so it’s an ongoing struggle to try and manage all of that,” Cerveny said.

Cerveny said the staff at the food bank are currently looking to purchase a new property that would allow them to distribute food more easily. Because of high property costs, the food bank needs around $5 million to purchase or construct a new building. So far, $600,000 has been raised. The food bank is a privately funded nonprofit and relies solely on donations.

“We use the donations wisely and establish a capital fund for the building for the donors that have contributed to that program, and other donors focus on the purchasing of the food,” Cerveny said.

Cerveny said the food bank wouldn’t be as effective without the many volunteers who lend a helping hand.

“Without them, we’d be lost,” she said.

The food bank will also provide Christmas boxes by distributing turkeys from Dec. 1 to Dec. 23. Cerveny said many of the turkeys donated are the ones people get for free in a grocery store after they spend a certain amount of money.

  For more information, visit nccfoodbank.org.

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