Winning Powerball ticket leads to gift for Auburn Food Bank

Debbie Christian was working in her office at the Auburn Food Bank at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, when the phone rang.

The voice at the other end was so excited with whatever news she had to share that her words kept tumbling over one another, Christian said. So at first, only bits of the stuttered word-stream made sense.

“I understood the words, ‘It’s Fred Meyer,’ and I understood, ‘We like you a lot,’” Christian recalled.

Then, Tiffany Sanders, corporate affairs manager for Fred Meyer, the voice at the other end, found her words: We have this campaign going on of No Hunger and we’ve got this Powerball situation and we just want to know if you’d like to receive $50,000 we can give you?

Christian got that part and could hardly believe her ears.

“Well, yes, I want to receive it!” Auburn Food Bank’s director recalled with a laugh, recalling that very happy and completely unexpected bolt from the blue. “No way am I going to say no!”

At the heart of the story is the winning Powerball ticket that a woman had bought days earlier at the Auburn Fred Meyer at 801 Auburn Way N. The ticket is worth more than $450 million to that winner, whoever it is, and whatever store sells the winning ticket gets a $50,000 bonus from the Washington State Lottery.

The Auburn Fred Meyer store decided not to keep that bonus, and instead gave away every penny of it to the Auburn Food Bank, with whom it has worked for years.

“We are all about zero hunger, zero waste and trying to end hunger in our community,” Sanders said after the check presentation at the Auburn Fred Meyer store on Thursday afternoon, Feb. 9. “So it was really a no-brainer when our Auburn associate said, ‘You know what, let’s make sure we are helping the people right here in Auburn.’”

“It was an easy fix to look at how do we bless somebody that really needs it,” Sanders added. “So, it’s going to go to the Auburn Food Bank, but this store here is also getting $10,000 from Fred Meyer to have a store celebration. The employees get to vote on how they want to spend that.”

Much appreciated at the Auburn Food Bank, which, like the rest of the nation, is smarting from the sting of a tough economy.

“We’ve been feeling it, very much so,” Christian said.

To put the food bank’s pain in plain terms, while it now serves 250 more new families than it was serving at this same time last year, it has $160,000 less cash than it did then to spend on food and 600,000 pounds less food to give out than it did then. That adds up to 1,515 more individuals served.

When food is down at the grocery store, Christian explained, it’s also down at the food bank. That is, if a donor is going there to make a purchase and bring it over to the food bank, but can’t buy the food, that person can’t give.

“If we are trying to buy in bulk from the manufacturer or the middleman and there’s nothing there, it’s always harder. When the economy goes bad, we hurt worse. So the donor isn’t giving as much because they don’t have it to give, and we can’t buy as much because we don’t have money to buy it. So it’s that trickle down that happens,” Christian said.

In a good year, Christian said, a food bank client’s grocery cart may be filled with up to 300 pounds of groceries. But today, what goes out the door is probably only 175 pounds, Christian said.

“We are very blessed,” Christian said. “Fred Meyer already gives us food every day. We’re here every day to pick up what they have left over, so that’s already a blessing. But then a $50,000 check…”

“We won’t have to shop as hard and work as hard to pay the bills,” Christian added. “I won’t have to hold something so I can pay something else.”

Families may access the Auburn Food Bank three times a month. Learn more at