Helpline House: How best to help with food shortage

(Volunteer Reed Thomas, 14, stocks Mac & Cheese at Helpline House food bank last week).

Food banks across the county are struggling with high demand and low donations this summer, as we reported Wednesday.

Since the story ran we’ve received a few inquiries from readers asking how they can help, including an email this morning from local Les Schwab manager Brett Clark. Donna McKinney of Helpline House responded with some tips:

Thanks for your very prompt response to the article in the paper!  We appreciate donations of just about any foods, but there are certain items that we are especially low on and/or are distributed so fast that we cannot keep them in stock.  At this time, this is the list:

— Canned beans for cooking

— Cereals

— Assorted pasta

— Mac & cheese

— Tuna and canned chicken

— Peanut butter & jam

— Hearty soups

— Chili

— Cooking oils

— Pasta sauces, salsa, misc. sauces

— Crackers & snacks

— Toiletries and Detergents

We also have a list of foods always needed at the food bank on our web site, at ( on the food bank page under Services).  Our usual hours for donation drop-off are 9:30 to 4:30 Monday through Friday, although this Saturday we will be on site at the food bank 10:30am to 6pm for the IFC food drive.

Thanks again for your caring response to this situation.

Donna McKinney


Volunteer Program Assistant

I’ll add a few of thoughts to McKinney’s excellent suggestions:

Cash is king: Marilyn Gremse, manager of volunteer services at Helpline, told me cash donations are also always welcome and are in some ways more helpful than gifts of food. Food banks like Helpline have access to bulk ordering programs and can stretch dollars much farther than the average shopper. Plus a cash donation allows them to order exactly what they need, when they need it.

The gift of greens: If you have more veggies ripening in your garden than your family can eat, think about donating the extras to the food bank. Helpline already benefits from a few community gardens on the island and fresh local greens are greatly appreciated by food bank clients, Gremse said. Grace Episcopal Church gardeners have contributed more than 1,000 pounds of food this season.

Volunteer: You can follow the lead of Bainbridge High student Reed Thomas (pictured above) and volunteer. The food bank always needs more hands.