Weekend Highlights

Published November 7, 2011
Our Community

How to Help Hungry Families During the Holidays - and Beyond

seattle child article photo

As Thanksgiving approaches, most of us are lucky enough to be able to look forward to a table piled with good food and surrounded by family. But thousands of Washington families will go without a turkey dinner this year – or, for that matter, any meal at all. The calm before the holiday frenzy storm is a good time to slow down and spend a few hours with your kids helping the less fortunate families in our community. Of course it's important to remember that families go hungry year-round, not just during the holidays, so consider setting a reminder on your calendar to volunteer or donate food in a few months.

And if need you further imperative, consider this: The recession has hit Washington's most vulnerable families exceptionally hard. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that the number of hungry households in Washington shot up nearly 100 percent from 2008 to the end of 2010. As of December 2010, the number of hungry families in this state hit more than 160,000, doubling pre-recession numbers. Moreover, this bucks the national trend---while hungry household numbers are largely decreasing across the nation, in Washington they've gone way up, making the state the 11th hungriest in the county. “A staggering number of Washingtonians are hungrier after the recession,” said Jon Gould, deputy director of the Children’s Alliance, in a recent press release. Convinced yet? Here are a few places to help out this month. Visit Seattleschild.com for more listings in Seattle and beyond.

Remember that food banks accept donations and volunteers year-round, and also that there are many ways to help out, including hosting your own food drive.

Bellevue LifeSpring
Location: Bellevue

Every holiday season, Bellevue LifeSpring (formerly Overlake Service League) hosts an Adopt-a-Family matching program. The sponsor family is given a grocery list of Thanksgiving food items for a particular family in need and then drops off the goods (along with a grocery store gift card for perishables) at a central location on a designated day. Including kids on the shopping trip can be a tangible way to create a connection to a family they can't see, not to mention a valuable lesson about the cost of food. For Christmas, the wish-lists include gifts in addition to food items. 425-451-1175; www.bellevuelifespring.org/make-difference/md-adopt.php

The Compass Housing Alliance
Location: Downtown Seattle

Nov. 23-25, the Compass Housing Alliance is collecting Thanksgiving meal baskets to give to homeless and low-income families in the area, which include a turkey, cranberry sauce, vegetables and more. The complete request list can be found online. Year-round, Compass mostly works with adult volunteers to prepare and serve meals at its various shelters downtown but on Thanksgiving and Christmas, whole families are encouraged to help out. 206-357-3108; www.compasshousingalliance.org/get-involved-now/volunteer/

Everett Food Bank
Location: Everett           

Once a month the Everett Food Bank hosts a family-friendly Community Volunteer Night from 5:30-7:30 p.m. where volunteers sort food donations and repackage bulk items. Volunteers don't need to attend an orientation to work at a Community night but space is limited (the November 17 date is already full) so RSVP beforehand online. The Greenwood Food Bank also offers a similar event on the fourth Thursday of every month. 425-259-3191; www.voaww.org/food_bank

Food LifeLine
Location: Shoreline

Food LifeLine offers family-friendly volunteer opportunities on the evenings and on weekends where kids ages six and older are 100% welcome. All those under age 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Duties include labeling products, inspecting and sorting food donations, and repackaging bulk items. The best time to volunteer with the kids? Every Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. is Community Volunteer Night, which is meant for individuals and families as opposed to large groups. Pre-registration online is required for all sessions and the slots usually fill up well in advance. 206-545-6600; www.foodlifeline.org/help/volunteer/Volunteer.html

The Food Bank at St. Mary's
Location: Central District            

The Food Bank at St. Mary's, which opened a new operational center last May, frequently hosts volunteers from nearby schools like Washington Middle School. Among a variety of options, volunteers can sort at the warehouse, work at the food bank, or host a food and fund drive (and yes, individual families--not just organizations--can host drives). Those under 16 require adult supervision. 206-324-7100 ext. 23.; thefbsm.org/volunteer

The Good Neighbor Cafe
Location: Tacoma

Kids over the age of nine can help prepare food in the kitchen alongside their parents at the Good Neighbor Cafe, which serves healthy, free meals to low-income and homeless individuals 365 days a year. Volunteers are needed seven days a week, anytime between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Everyone must first fill out an online application. 253-383-4493; www.rescue-mission.org/food-service

Jewish Family Services
Location: Capitol Hill

Jewish Family Services doesn't usually have kids help out at its food bank, but if you call and speak to the Director of Volunteer Services, she will gladly help your family figure out a different food bank-related volunteer activity, such as assisting at special events or collecting donations from farmers' markets and grocery stores. 206-861-3155; www.jfsseattle.org/vol.html

North Helpline Food Bank
Location: Lake City

This food bank is open three days a week for distribution, including a Saturday morning session from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Volunteers must be 14 or older and those under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Duties could include handing out food, restocking, carrying groceries to cars, and some sorting. Volunteers must read over orientation materials and fill out an application before participating. 206-367-3477; www.northhelpline.org/howcanyouhelp.html

Northwest Harvest
Location: Kent, First Hill    

Year-round, volunteers can help by sorting and packing food at the Kent distribution center, serve clients at the Cherry Street Food Bank on First Hill, or assist at special events citywide. Those interested must complete an application first, which can be found online. Volunteers must be in the third grade or higher, and those 15 years old or younger must bring an adult to work alongside them. Volunteers aged 16-17 may volunteer independently with a signed parental consent form. 206-923-7453; www.northwestharvest.org/Volunteer.htm

Operation Sack Lunch
Location: Downtown

Operation Sack Lunch has been serving meals in downtown Seattle to homeless men, women, and children since 1989. Though most of the volunteer sessions are during the week, opportunities also exist on Saturday afternoons and evenings and occasionally on Sundays. No one under the age of 13 is allowed to work in the kitchen but the organization is able to assign other tasks to younger children. All under 18 must be accompanied by an adult and everyone must fill out an application beforehand. 206-922-2015; www.opsacklunch.org

University District Food Bank
Location: University District 

Volunteers can help with general duties like sorting food, cleaning up, and bagging groceries at the food bank. Every other month on a Wednesday evening, the PCC Natural Market in View Ridge donates a large quantity of food that it has collected and volunteers work together to sort and bag the food items into family-friendly portions. 206-523-7060; www.udistrictfoodbank.org/volunteer.php

(2) Comment(s)

I really appreciate that you are taking the time to bring attention to the issue of low-income and homeless families. But please, also consider that there are a great many homeless youth and teens in the Seattle area without any family at all to turn to. Many youth feel uncomfortable using adult services and there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer in homeless and at-risk teen centers, a few of which I've listed below.

The Orion Center (Downtown Seattle)

The University District Youth Center (Seattle)


Happy holidays!

Posted by Keanne on Nov 10, 2011

Please consider giving a grocery store gift cardto a family in need helped by Navos and Ruth Dykeman Chilren's Center in Burien. Our client families need extra help at the holidays.
Contcat us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or visit the rdcc.org or navos.org websites.
Thank you for your consideration.

Posted by alice on Nov 21, 2011

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