Blaine distribution setup a model for others

Published on Wed, Nov 9, 2011 by Carissa Wright

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Blaine Food Bank association president Jim Gregory helps prepare food for distribution Tuesday, November 8. Manager Robin Kendall boasts that not many board members volunteer so diligently in the warehouses of the food banks they serve. Photo by Carissa Wright.

Every client who walks through the door of the Blaine Food Bank is greeted by longtime volunteer Evelyn Bonallo at the sign-in desk, offering a smile and sometimes a treat for families with children. Bonallo is the food bank’s longest-standing volunteer, having worked with the organization since 1972.

“We started in a church basement,” she said Tuesday, just before the day’s distribution began.

Today, housed in a building made possible by donated materials, space and labor, the food bank serves 100 to 125 families every day it’s open. The only information it asks of its patrons is their family’s size and home address.

The Blaine Food Bank’s distribution process is something of a model for other food banks in the region. Northwest Harvest gave its highest praise for the cleanliness and organization of the Blaine operation and warehouse.

“Northwest Harvest said other food banks should emulate how we distribute,” said Jim Gregory, the food bank association’s president.

Most other food banks are able to process about 22 families in an hour. The Blaine Food Bank can process one family every minute, sending them home with a range of canned goods, bread, fruit, vegetables and other staples.

The secret to the speed is the preparation. Bread, produce, canned goods and more are sorted for different sizes of families before patrons even begin to line up outside.

“We try to have 50 percent of the food prepped before they come,” office manager Robin Kendall said.

Everyone who walks through the door leaves with the basics. Kendall said the volunteers – everyone involved with the food bank donates their time – try to make sure every family gets some kind of dessert as well.

And Sally Church, who manages the prep area, makes sure to save special treats for the children.

“Sally goes out of her way to save birthday cakes,” Kendall said, “for when a family says they have a birthday coming up.”