Sign of the times: Cupboards growing bare at food bank

Feeling the pinch of uncertain times, the Auburn Food Bank is running low on many goods.

Feeling the pinch of uncertain times, the Auburn Food Bank is running low on many goods.

And the lines continue to grow longer.

For the first time in eight years, the food bank recently ran out of frozen and canned meat. The shelves, once stocked with canned and dry goods, also have dwindled.

It is a crisis situation, considering the growing effects of high fuel and food prices on consumers. And because of those factors, more lower-income households continue to fall behind.

“This started to hit hard three, four months ago,” said Debbie Christian, the food bank’s executive director. “We saw the downturn.”

Auburn is no different than other struggling food banks throughout the country. They are in similar straits. Demand is up, supplies and donations are down.

“And we’re still seeing more people than ever before,” Christian said.

The numbers paint a challenging picture at the Auburn Food Bank:

• Every fifth person is new to the bank.

• Every fourth person is a returning customer from three to five years ago.

• From June of last year to June of this year, the food bank served an increase of 1,638 households, which represents 13,162 individuals.

• The food bank serves about 120 families each day during the four hours it is open.

• The food bank operated $30,000 below budget during last fiscal year, symptomatic of economically driven times and the shortage of business and private donations.

• Food bank stocks have been greatly affected by the loss of business to liquidators.

• The food bank’s financial aid program also has been affected by the drop in assistance.

The food banks, like their customers, also are suffering from high gas prices and battling the impact of rising food prices on their operations.

Christian and her staff are determined to make it work and reach as many people as possible, given the supplies.

Cutting back on van travel is not an option, she said, because the food needs to be delivered on critical routes.

While banks across the county reportedly have turned away customers or simply ran out of food, Christian is hopeful that the food bank here can weather the storm.

“Auburn is a caring community,” she said. “And it’s hard to ask for more … to go one more mile for us.”

The Food Bank (253-833-8925), located at 930 18th Place NE, is open 9 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and every second Wednesday of the month, from 9-1:15 p.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m.

A painful loss

The community mourns the loss of Dr. Virgil Becker, a prominent Auburn orthopedic surgeon who was killed in a private plane crash last Sunday north of Arlington. Becker was 54.

“Dr. Becker was highly respected in his profession and a valuable member of not only the medical community, but the Auburn community,” Mayor Pete Lewis said in his statement. “He will be greatly missed.”

Becker and his wife, Nancy Becker, also an Auburn physician, were avid hikers who volunteered their time to youth.

A Reporter article last summer described the Beckers’ ascent of Mount St. Helens. Virgil escorted his 9-year-old daughter, Barbara, up the mountain, her first visit to the top.

Dr. Becker was a warm, gifted and respected man – who loved adventure and carried a big heart for kids.

Mark Klaas can be reached

at 253-833-0218, ext. 5050,


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