Tri-Cities Food Bank sees 40% drop in grocery store donations during coronavirus outbreak

KENNEWICK, Wash. — As people flock to grocery stores and clear the shelves during the coronavirus outbreak, they may be taking from those that are truly need.

“The hoarding hurt,” said Howard Rickard, president of the board of directors at the Tri-Cities Food Bank.

The food bank relies heavily on grocery store donations to stock its own shelves. For example, the monthly donation from Walmart is over 18,000 pounds of food and over 14,000 pounds from Winco. However, during the outbreak grocery store donations have been down 40% for the food bank.

“People took off the shelves things that were normally approaching expiration date and heading for the food bank,” said Rickard. “There’s less to distribute simply because the stores don’t have it.”

Along with a decrease in donations, the food bank is seeing an increase in demand, due to people being out of work. For example, at the Kennewick site they typically see 75 to 80 people per week.
Last week, it was in the 80s and 90s.

They only expect it to get worse.

“What’s going to happen in about two weeks time is that the people that have been laid off in the service industry are going to be out in the food lines, and we anticipate a spike which follows trends we’ve seen worldwide,” said Rickard.

Furthermore, the food bank relies on many volunteers that fall into the “high-risk” category for COVID-19.

“At our Richland site, I would say the average age is 75 or older,” said VJ Meadows, executive director of the Tri-Cities Food Bank. “We need younger people to come and volunteer so they can go home.”

Meanwhile, the food bank is taking as many safety precautions as they can. Clients aren’t allowed in any site building, and they may end up altering their hours. On Monday, they closed their Richland site. The two other locations, Kennewick and Benton City, are still open.

However, Rickard and Meadows realize that the community is relying on them more than ever, and they’re asking for people to help them meet those needs.

“We have depended on our community support,” said Meadows. “When community goes to ground and hibernates, then we’re raising the flag going, please don’t forget us.”

Both monetary and food donations can be utilized by the food bank, as well as more volunteers stepping up, even if it’s only temporary.

For more information or to volunteer at one of their locations, click here.