• Food for Thought: Retreat Reflections
  • Community Food Drive Results
  • Getting to Know: Food Driver Julie Shonkwiler
  • Stories of Hope: The Joy of Blueberries
  • It Is Easy Being Green!
  • Staff Corner: First Time Grandparent
  • Upcoming Events: GBRC Turkey Trot
  • ALL Are Welcome
Food For Thought
Retreat Reflections

Where do we go next? This is a question the Bellingham Food Bank's Board of Directors spends time examining each Fall. Every September, these volunteer leaders convene at a retreat to examine data, review best practices and deliberate, hoping to create a map for the food bank's future. The trends of our work continue to be troubling, but the opportunities to support food insecure families in Bellingham and greater Whatcom County are inspiring.
Locally and nationally, food insecurity data is, frankly, sad. Most food pantries in Washington have seen the number of food bank visits plateau, but not decrease to pre-recession numbers. In Bellingham our food bank visits continue to increase dramatically. By the end of 2017, our food bank visits will have increased by more than 20% since 2015. Bellingham now has the busiest food bank in Western Washington. Locally, 1 in 5 families regularly visit our food bank, nearly 25% of all local kids are food insecure, with these rates being dramatically higher in some neighborhoods.
When Bellingham Food Bank plans new hunger intervention activities, we make sure they won't negatively impact existing critical programs; they will be mission focused; and they will significantly improve families food security. We deeply research the issue, but try to make informed decisions quickly enough to avoid "analysis paralysis." Currently, there are a few hunger interventions that are attracting our attention, warranting deeper consideration. They are:
Produce Prescriptions: Were you aware that socio-economic factors (education, income, food access) have a 40% impact on health whereas clinical care has a 10% impact? This is why we are very interested in produce prescription programs! Produce prescriptions enable physicians and health care providers to write prescriptions for fresh fruits and vegetables for food insecure patients who would benefit from eating more produce. There are a number of demonstration programs  occurring across the country that are having some incredible 

Breakfast After the Bell:  Washington State ranks near the bottom (45th) in national participation in the free breakfast program at schools. Simply put, this means that many children who are eligible for free breakfast don't access it. The solution is to serve breakfast to all kids after school starts-after the bell. Schools that have adopted this strategy quickly improve childhood hunger and school success. It's happening in some schools in Bellingham currently, but can we help to make sure it happens in all schools in Bellingham and Whatcom County?
Summer Food : During the summer, low-income kids and families become less food secure. The loss of meals at school can really impact a family's budget and food security. As a food bank, how do we address this reality? In Bellingham, there are several summer meal programs operated by some great organizations. In rural Whatcom County, there are fewer providers and building such programming is tougher. There are some highly innovative solutions being pioneered by others such as pop-up food banks, home delivered meals, and food/library partnerships that are working to address summer food gaps. What will work best in Bellingham and Whatcom County?
We don't have the answers yet to these and many other questions that came out of our 2017 retreat. But, we are  learning a lot and talking to potential partners like YMCA, local school districts, Unity Care Northwest, and others who have created best practices. If you have ideas or want to learn more, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me. Stay tuned to see where we land on our next big project, and thank you for supporting our ability to keep our operations innovative!
Community Food Drive
Feed the Need Raises $126,000 and 10,000 pounds for Whatcom County

For Industrial Credit Union, Fall is more than back to school, football, and cooler weather - it's Feed the Need season - and it's all about getting our food banks ready for winter and experiencing the gift of inspiring others to give.

Twenty three years ago, Industrial Credit Union saw the growing need of the local food banks and decided that collecting food and bringing awareness to the need was a great way to lift our community and celebrate International Credit Union Day. Partnering with Haggen Food & Pharmacy to make giving convenient and easy, and Cascade Radio Group to give voice and bring awareness to the need, we lead the efforts of the Feed the Need Community Food Drive team. Our team's commitment, passion and understanding of how hunger impacts a person's ability to do anything in life is what has made it the community event it is today.

There were thousands inspired to give during this year's food drive resulting in $126,000 raised to fight local hunger. While $126,000 is an impressive number, it will take the continued generosity of the community throughout the holiday season to ensure Whatcom County's food pantries remain able to meet growing demand. When we started the event if we collected 10,000 pounds in one week, we could stock the shelves through the holidays. Now we strive to reach $150,000, which will result in $1.2 million worth of buying power to our local food banks.

In conducting Feed the Need, the Industrial Credit Union team builds camaraderie and gains a deeper understanding of the needs of their neighbors, but knowing that a parent will not have to worry about feeding their child is the ultimate reward.

We thank all who contributed to Feed the Need this year. 
Visit www.industrialcu.orgfeedtheneed for more information.

- Kim Sutton, Executive Vice President, Industrial Credit Union

Julie (left) and cohort
Getting to Know
Food Driver

Julie Shonkwiler wanted to mobilize her network of mountain bikers to give back to the community and came up with the first annual WMBC Mountains of Food Drive.

How did you come up with the idea for Mountains of Food?
I had the idea for a food drive, and I wanted to bring in a higher quality of food than just what was leftover collecting dust in the back of someone's pantry. The biking community in Bellingham is really great, and is full of community support and volunteers, but not so much that directly benefits the Bellingham community that doesn't use trails. We wanted to do something that showed that we care about our whole community, as well as build camaraderie among the bike shops.

What was the most fun part of the food drive?
I really enjoyed working with Mike Storm of Intrinsic Flow Mountain Biking and The Kona Supremes to get #jumpyourlunch pictures to use for promoting the food drive. It was also lots of fun to go around to the different bike shops to check progress, and of course, collecting the food at the end. I loved that Café Velo, Alleycat Bike Shop, Fanatik, and The Kona Bike Shop delivered their food on bikes!

Did anything you learned in the process surprise you?
I was really surprised with how much food we had in the end. It doesn't look like that much at each location, but all together it was over 400 pounds! I was also really surprised that there are 13 bike shops in Bellingham and Ferndale that wanted to participate.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to partner with the food bank?
Don't be intimidated! The whole process went very well, and our food drive was way more
successful than it would have been if we tried to just do it on our own.

Stories of Hope
The Joy of Blueberries by Joe Nolting

It's a Tuesday evening in late August at one of the Bellingham Food Bank's weekly food pantries-a kind of pop-up food bank in a low-income neighborhood. Next to the food distribution area I've set up four tables where I hand out free books to kids and adults. Good food and good reading material make for a nice combination.

Each week brings new families to the pop-up as they learn of the abundance of goods that are available for them. Tonight we are busy. A family of six-two parents, three sons, and a daughter-moves slowly along my tables, selecting books as they pass. The father pushes a cart loaded with two boxes brimming with meat, milk, eggs, fresh produce, and other foods. The daughter is about ten years old. She pushes the wheelchair in which her mom sits. Two of the boys are perhaps six or seven and the oldest boy may be 12 years of age.

By the time they've reached the last of my tables everyone in the family has a book in one hand. The mother reaches for one of their food boxes and the family stops, forming an impromptu circle around her. She picks up a quart container of fresh blueberries and sets it on her lap and it quickly becomes clear that these perfectly ripe treasures are too precious to take home, too sacred to wait for the car; they need to be savored this very moment.

Then she scoops out a small handful of the luscious, perfectly ripe fruit and pours them into her mouth as if they were liquid, as if they were a nectar of the gods. She smiles broadly, perhaps not quite believing her good fortune. Her daughter follows suit and reaches into the container, filling the hollow of her hand with berries. The two young brothers take their turns and sample the fruit, their teeth stained deep purple as they smile. Soon the oldest brother and the father have small mounds of blueberries in their cupped palms.

As the family eats the berries there is no hurry. They are fully present in this moment. The container seems bottomless and the berries are like manna from heaven only so much sweeter. No one speaks, the only sounds being sighs of contentment, sighs of joy.

Joe Nolting enjoys writing poetry and prose. He is currently working on a young adult novel that takes place in Alaska.
It  Is Easy Being Green!
Solar Savings

Since November 2016, we've been generating power from the 49 solar panels installed on our roof. Over a period of 10 months, we have generated 7% of our total electricity needs for the year, and have reduced our electric bill by 36%!

The average home electric bill in Washington state is $88 per month. Our 10 months of savings represent over three years of electric bills for the average home!

We are proud and grateful to have partnered with Western Solar and Ecotech Solar to make our solar savings possible.

Staff Corner
First Time Grandparent

Office Administrator Nina Cathersal
and her husband Tim welcomed their first grandchild Roman Leslie Ellison on September 14th. He weighed 6 lbs. 13 oz and was 18.75 inches long.

Welcome Roman!
Upcoming Events

November 18- Greater Bellingham Running Club GBRC Turkey Trot 5k Fun Run & Walk

All proceeds (100%) donated to the Bellingham Food Bank

Awards for 1st overall male & female runner

5K course starts and ends at Squalicum Creek Park at 9 AM

Parking is very limited. Please walk, run, or carpool to the event. No dogs on the course. Strollers welcome!

Minimum Donations:
GBRC Members $5.00 per runner
Non-members $8.00 per runner
Kids under 12 years are free

Please visit the GBRC website at to register for this event.
Bellingham Food Bank believes:

All Are Welcome.

Food is a human right.

No human is illegal.

We will provide food to Bellingham residents regardless of citizenship/immigration status.

We will not share customer information and will  protect customers' personal information.

Bellingham Food Bank is currently  working to spread this message to all  Bellingham communities.