The Arlington Community Food Bank provided their holiday meals again this year with distribution events held on Dec. 14, 16, 18, 21 and 23.

The food bank provides their normal food items along with Christmas dinner items such as ham or turkey during the annual holiday distributions.

This year they received a grant that allowed them to provide a ham with every Christmas basket. The Stillaguamish Tribe also donated a large number of hams for the Christmas dinners as well.

"We've done a week of distribution and served about 275 households," said Carla Gastineau, director of the Arlington Community Food Bank.

She noted their biggest days for December are usually just before Christmas though, so she expected the Dec. 21 and 23 distribution days to be busy.

Volunteers came by during the holiday season to help out local families.

"I like serving my community and there's always need. It's always set up here and it's just an easy way to show up and help," said food bank volunteer Christina Carbajal.

"It's lovely to be able to see all the people and help out in the community," said food bank volunteer Jared Swislow.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic it has been a busy year overall for the food bank.

They have had 150 to 160 new households per month sign up for services and compared to last year each month has seen between a 40 to 80 percent increase in demand.

"The demand has steadily been increasing throughout the year," said Gastineau.

Those stopping by the food bank have changed to include a lot more middle class families and individuals.

"So many more families who have one person who is not working, or they are working but they are not getting as many hours," said Gastineau. "Those people are drawing unemployment, but it's often not the same amount they were making before."

Many who were previously able to pay mortgages or car payments now find themselves in a problem and don't want to backslide.

"People who had long-term jobs but now find themselves displaced because of COVID … and now find themselves in crisis," said Gastineau.

The tough economic times have also pushed donations down as well.

"I believe due to COVID, individual donations have decreased," said Gastineau. "People are really guarding their finances right now."

There are fewer food drives than in years past as well, likely due to the difficulty of holding one under COVID-19 restrictions.

"The Santa Run set records, but that was the only large food drive that was held this year," said Gastineau.

The funding from the federal coronavirus relief bill passed in March has helped provide some relief to food banks, but without a replacement yet that funding is scheduled to end Dec. 31.

"There's just a lot of unknowns right now that are really unsettling," said Gastineau.

She said direct monetary donations are the best way to help currently.

"If everyone would consider doing a little bit as a re-occurring donation, that would go a long way," said Gastineau.

More information about donating is available at arlingtonfoodbank.org.

 

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