Local food bank gains donations

Money rolls in from online campaign

— As it continues to help residents in need every week, the Omak Food Bank has received its own Christmas gift in the form of donations – around $28,000.

Walmart gave a $25,000 check to the food bank through a grant to help the organization purchase food supplies throughout the coming year.

“Walmart is committed to helping fight hunger in the communities where we serve,” store manager Rich Blakemore said. “Our support for the Omak Food Bank demonstrates this commitment and we are hopeful that through our grant, residents in Okanogan County will continue to support all local food banks.”

Another $3,000 came from Washington Federal, which named the Omak Food Bank as one of its charities for the month of December in the “Locals Know Best” campaign.

On the bank’s website, people cast their vote for a charity, and each vote is worth $5. Voting was scheduled to run through Dec. 31, but Omak Food Bank has already reached its $3,000 maximum.

“This money will certainly boost our ability to purchase food and assist with the needs of our community in the months to come,” the food bank said on Washington Federal’s website. “Many thanks to the folks of Washington Federal.”

The Omak Food Bank, 101 W. Fourth Ave., provides support to more than 4,000 area families and individuals each month and relies on donations to meet the needs, Blakemore said.

“We’re just happy to provide some support to the community,” he said. “It’s definitely a worthwhile cause and to put some money out there that’s going to take care of the community is just a huge win for the valley.”

Omak was one of the food banks in the area that reported feeling the pinch before Thanksgiving, particularly since the federal government cut benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Better known as food stamps, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program serves tens of thousands of households in North-Central Washington.

The result of the cuts has been an influx of people to area food banks, although what is doled out is only able to supplement a family or individual’s grocery budget.

“With family income being cut and more families needing food, our numbers will be going up,” the food bank said. “We get Northwest Harvest TFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) and private donations. Sometimes we have to stretch handouts a little thin.”

The food bank, which has been around since 1981 when a group of women delivered from door-to-door, also raises money through bazaars, yard sales and other events.

Okanogan County Community Action Council will be the next local organization to benefit through Locals Know Best.

“As of Jan. 2 there will be a link on their website (Washington Federal) that will be available for people to click and vote for us,” Executive Director Lael Duncan said.

As with the food bank, Community Action could receive up to $3,000.

“If people wanted to vote for us, that would be great,” Duncan said. “It would help us with all of things that we’re trying to get done around here.”

The primary recipient of the funds would be the Food For All program, which Duncan said has the least flexible funding sources and receives the least funding overall. Food For All helps residents grow their own food in square-foot gardens and obtains thousands of pounds of fresh produce through gleaning – collecting what’s left after harvest.

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