United Way Partner Agency Spotlight: Bellingham Food Bank

Feb 15, 2022

One United Way donation helps fund more than 20 local nonprofit agencies providing critical services throughout Whatcom County. Want to learn more about how your dollars are hard at work helping our friends and neighbors who need a hand? We thought so.

Today, we’re featuring Bellingham Food Bank, an amazing organization that provides fresh, nutritious food to individuals and families in our community.

What is it like to be food-insecure?

  • Imagine tucking your kids into bed knowing they are hungry and having nothing to offer them.
  • Imagine having to choose between paying rent, seeking medical care, or buying food.
  • Imagine trying to concentrate on work, school, or other critical tasks when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from.

Situations like these are stark realities for many families who are struggling financially in our community. Approximately 1 in 5 Whatcom County households identifies as food-insecure, meaning they lack reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. Thankfully, organizations like Bellingham Food Bank are here to help.

There is no single profile of hunger.

Bellingham Food Bank has been fighting hunger for 50 years and offers a variety of service models to broaden access to nutrient-dense foods for food-insecure people in Whatcom County. In addition to offering multiple ways for families to get food, Bellingham Food Bank also orders and stores food for Whatcom and San Juan County’s other food pantries to increase their capacities and efficiencies.

3 Great Ways to Get Great Food

1) SHOP | 1824 Ellis St | Monday, Wednesday, Friday 10am-6pm

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When people “shop” at Bellingham Food Bank, their experience is like a visit to a modest sized grocery store. Minus the checkout at the end!

Many items are sourced from donations by grocery stores and community members, but Bellingham Food Bank is also purchasing more items than ever. Purchasing allows the food bank to keep the most on-demand items in stock more consistently than if they only offered items that are donated. Many items – from fresh eggs to fresh fruit to menstrual products, diapers and formula, toilet paper and canned goods – are always available. The produce section is especially vibrant in summer thanks to the local farms and gleaning programs, ensuring people have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Shopping was temporarily on hold from March 2020 until July 2021, during which time the food bank transitioned to other services models. The return of shopping came with welcomed improvements like 25% more floor space, double the open hours each week, and limited number of shoppers in the building.

The most significant change is Bellingham Food Bank’s new motto: Please take only what you need.

Household limits have been removed on nearly every item, which means individual shoppers decide what “need” looks like to their household during that visit instead of having to fit themselves into one of three household categories and the associated food amounts.

“I am so grateful to be able to shop again and to come as much as I need! It looks beautiful, thank you so much!” -A shopper in July 2021

2) PICK UP | Christ the King Church Parking Lot, 4173 Meridian St | Tuesday 3-6pm 

In March of 2020, Bellingham Food Bank began offering prepacked food boxes as a safe alternative to in-person shopping at drive-through locations throughout Bellingham. The most visited drive-through distribution by far has been with their longstanding partners at CTK.

The food bank is continuing this drive-through option for prepacked food boxes as a way to distribute food to those who are not comfortable shopping in person yet, or who may be better served by this option regardless of COVID-19. While folks are not selecting their food outright, the boxes contain the same well-rounded selections as are available in the shopping model, and there are often bonus items available to take.

“I appreciate how easy it’s been to pick up food for my daughter. She’s working and in school and we’re all helping with raising my grandkids, so I try to help out and do things like this.” -A grandfather at the CTK distribution last summer

3) HOME DELIVERY | Friday 9am-3pm

Partnering with the Volunteer Center of Whatcom County has allowed Bellingham Food Bank to reach additional households with home delivered food boxes for years, but now Bellingham Food Bank is managing this program in house. The hope is that folks who can’t access the shop or pick-up options will benefit from the expansion of home deliveries.

  • Interested in applying to receive home deliveries? Click here or call 360-676-0392 extension 4 for assistance.
  • Want to volunteer to deliver food boxes? Click here.

“Thank you so much, I haven’t had consistent food or a good diet in so long I would so appreciate this food. I am also connecting with a specialist to help me learn how to eat a normal diet, I have never had one normal meal a day since I was a small child, I have had to pay for my own food for a long time and could never pay for a healthy meal for many years and could only afford one meal a day for about ten years. I am hoping to be able to eat stably three times a day and begin to thrive and give back to society and heal from my condition. I don’t plan to need this too long, and I hope to give back some day.” -A home delivery applicant

Food for All in Whatcom County

Bellingham Food Bank is committed to recognizing the dynamic and varying needs of folks, striving to improve offerings, and creating as low barrier an experience as possible. They are diversifying food offerings with an aim to be culturally appropriate for more diets and are sourcing food with an equity lens in mind.

A Network of Support

When you give to United Way, you get to support Bellingham Food Bank and more than 20 other local nonprofits helping Whatcom County kids, families, and seniors.

These critical programs are helping with everything from food and housing, to vocational training and literacy skills, to violence and abuse prevention, to early learning and childcare support.

Thank you for supporting this network of vital services in our community!

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