In 1930 the Auburn Community Chest was born from community members coming together to support a family who lost everything in a house fire. Almost 90 years later, that original act of assisting a single family has evolved into today’s Auburn Food Bank. The Auburn Food Bank now serves approximately 150 families, or 600 individuals a day.
All About The Auburn Food Bank
The Auburn Food Bank is a nonprofit entity serving families and individuals within the Auburn School District boundaries. Food bank clients do not have to be members of or have children attending schools within the ASD. Clients may come twice a month to the food bank. There is no income minimum to utilize food bank services.
“We are a grocery store that doesn’t take your money,” describes the Auburn Food Bank section on United Way of King County’s website. “The services of The Auburn Food Bank are provided each week to those who need our help. We are not just a food bank, but also have Emergency Financial Assistance, run two meal programs, [run a] Food to Go Backpack program for our most needy children in the Auburn School District, [and] have a shut-in delivery program.”
Executive Director Debbie Christian oversees the Auburn Food Bank. Christian has been in her role since 2006. The Auburn Food Bank’s Board of Directors consists of four officers and 11 members:
Terri A. Herren, President
Dana K. Hinman, Vice President
Christine E. Farrell, Secretary
Chuck M. Folsom, Treasurer
Ann M. Beurskens
Tracie L. Bryant
Dennis J. Grad
John F. Gustafson
James (Jamie) Bothell
Craig P. Koester
Lois A. McCrabb
Tracy L. Radcliff, RRT
Cyndi A. Rapier
Connecting With the Food Bank
The Auburn Food Bank is tucked into an apartment complex off I St NE. This location allows a level of discretion to clients visiting the food bank.
Auburn Food Bank Location:
930 18th Pl NE, Auburn, WA 98002
Auburn Food Bank Hours:
Monday, Tuesday and Thursday: 9:00AM-1:15 pm
Every Second Wednesday:
Donation Drop Off hours:
Monday – Friday 8:00 AM-3:00 PM and by appointment
Donations can also be made 24-7-365 at the donation drop bin in front of the Auburn Safeway.
Contact the Food Bank:
Volunteers for the Food Bank are always welcome. Volunteering opportunities during the week are from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm. Larger groups are by appointment. A small application is required to volunteer. Contact the food bank to inquire about current volunteer needs.
Being a Food Bank Client
A new client coming to the food bank will be welcomed and asked to sign in. New clients are required to fill out a basic form (1 sheet, front side only) detailing their family demographics. The information on this form includes the names and ages of each family member, as well as the total monthly household income. If a client does not know the information requested, they are asked to approximate.
Once a year each child of a family must be confirmed through birth certificates, medical records, or other such vital documents.
Proof of residency, such as a utility bill, is required to use food bank services. If a new client does not have this, they are not turned away. Continued use of food bank services does require proof of residency to be provided. Those living in a hotel can provide the receipt of their stay.
Client information is not shared with outside agencies. The information is needed to ensure the food bank is properly allocating enough resources for the demographics it serves. This information is also used when writing grant and funding requests.
After completing paperwork, new clients are checked in by the food bank receptionist, Peggy. During check in the client’s information is verified, and their address confirmed to be within ASD boundaries. A new client is also asked and noted if they have any food allergies or dietary restrictions.
During each client’s check-in (new or returning) Peggy inquires if they are seeking work. Being employed or seeking work is not a requirement of the food bank. However, Peggy has a list of current job openings that she shares with clients searching for employment. She pulls these openings on her own time, providing an additional resource for the food bank’s clients. If you have a job opening you’d like to share, e-mail it to [email protected] or [email protected].
New Shopping Model
Recently the Auburn Food Bank switched over to a shopping model. This switch changes from providing clients with boxes of food items put together by food bank volunteers. The change provides more options for clients and helps return a sense of normalcy and dignity. As clients only choose things they want and will use, this shopping model also helps reduce food waste.
The client is provided with a number tag signifying the number of people in their family once checked in. This number correlates to the number of items from each shelf in the food bank store a client may take. They do not have to take all the items allocated to them from every shelf. This model encourages clients to take only what they need and will use.
In addition to the items from the shelves, shoppers receive a ticket to get bread products. Inside the store, each client is also able to fill three grocery sacks full of whatever fresh produce they want. The food bank shop also has a variety of pet food items and treats available for clients.
Families with babies receive a ticket for baby items. This ticket ensures that only families that have babies receive these items. The food bank also limits several no-cook food items to individuals living in a hotel or experiencing homelessness. These include items such as Cup O’ Noodles, fruit cups and small snack mixes.
The food bank will always have expected staples, like milk and bread. However, because donations come from a range of sources, what the food bank has available can change. This new model also allows clients to navigate these continual changes better. They can see what is different and make the decision of what to get from the options available. They know what best suits their family’s needs and can ensure they receive the most out of the food bank’s resources.
Volunteers are present to assist clients as they shop. They can provide guidance and information on available food items, food storage, and expiration date safety. The food bank also has literature available for clients to take home to stay informed about food storage and expiration dates.
Not Just Food
While some of the Auburn Food Bank’s clients receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, these benefits do not provide for some essential items. According to the USDA website, “SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy any nonfood item, such as pet foods; soaps, paper products, and household supplies; grooming items, toothpaste, and cosmetics.”
Toilet paper, soap, feminine hygiene products, adult diapers, and other necessary items are available to food bank clients. Because of the availability of these crucial hygiene supplies, some assistance benefits recipients use the food bank to fill the gap.
Some local stores also donate unsold seasonal and household items. These items are placed in the food bank lobby for anyone to take. Such things can be creature comforts food bank clients may not otherwise be able to afford.
The food bank is also able to provide emergency financial relief “for those in jeopardy of losing their home, having their power shut off, or need emergency prescription help,” says Christian
This resource is limited and available only until it is all used for that month. The food bank’s assistance also has a capped dollar amount. When requests are submitted, the food bank weighs all information available. With limited resources to provide, if the aide they give will not have an actual impact (i.e., the individual owes thousands in back-rent and is about to be evicted), it is unlikely the food bank will grant the aide request.
In addition to financial resources, the food bank can provide valuable referrals to information for those in need. Being in the business of helping people, Christian is an invaluable knowledge base for best practices and the outlets for where a person can go for assistance.
Making Sure Resources Get To Those Who Need Them
Because the Food Bank does have limited hours, the staff works with clients. Deliveries from the food bank are typically limited to senior residents who are unable to leave their homes. Temporary delivery service can be arranged for clients who are experiencing a medical crisis.
Lack of transportation is not a sufficient reason for delivery. However, arrangements can be made for a third party to pick up items from the food bank for an individual or family.
Experiencing The Food Bank First Hand
I was also able to I try out the new shopping model shortly after it was implemented. To fully educate myself on the food bank, I came into the process as a new client.
My tag was green, as I was shopping for a family of 2 adults. Though I was selective in my shopping, I came away with plenty of food. Every item I chose was fresh, with no past or approaching expiration dates. As I came in after hours, some things were out of stock for the day (such as toilet paper and hygiene products). Volunteers replenish the shelves for the next shopping day.
Here is what I came away with:
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One bag of dried pinto beans and one bag of split peas (could take three from each shelf)
One large bag of apples
One large bag of oranges
One bundle of asparagus
Yukon potatoes (this filled two grocery sacks, so I had one remaining I could have filled)
Two cans of Tomato Sauce (could take two cans of sauce)
Two cans of Tomato Soup (could take three cans of soup)
One can of canned peaches (could take two cans of canned fruit)
Two boxes of Macaroni and Cheese (could take two boxes)
One jar of Peanut Butter (could take one jar)
One giant bag of shredded cheddar cheese (I was able to choose from a selection in the cold case and selected this as my item.)
1 can of cat food
Whole Frozen Chicken
Canned vegetables (could take three cans)
Canned Black or Pinto beans (could take three cans of beans)
Dried Pasta (could take one box)
Canned Spaghetti and Meatballs (could take two cans)
Tuna Fish (could take one can)
Beef Stew (could take one can)
Cereal (could take one box)
Condiments/Spices (could take one item)
Baking Items (could take one item)
Cold Case items (I did not write the numbers down for the cold case):
Heavy Whipping Cream
Note: Toilet paper and hygiene products are at the beginning, on the shelf next to the pinto beans and split peas. Bread products are distributed outside, as clients exit.
Want to give to the Auburn Food Bank? Here are some items you can donate!