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caption: A recent food distribution at Sodo Community Market. Food banks are expecting a big increase in people who need their services, and they are already having a hard time stocking their shelves.
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A recent food distribution at Sodo Community Market. Food banks are expecting a big increase in people who need their services, and they are already having a hard time stocking their shelves.
Credit: Courtesy Northwest Harvest

Overwhelmed, food banks struggle to fill shelves

As Washington residents struggle with unemployment, more people than ever are turning to food banks for help. State officials say the demand for food assistance will persist in the coming months.

The Covid-19 pandemic has left food banks overwhelmed as people increasingly seek their assistance.

In April, more than 1.6 million people in Washington sought the help of food banks. And the demand is only going to grow, said Department of Agriculture director Derek Sandison.

Food banks are struggling to fill their shelves because donations from groceries and restaurants are down. Now, they’re bidding against their former donors for the same staples, said Sandison.

“Canned fruits, canned vegetables, packaged food like macaroni and cheese — we’re literally in a situation [where] we’re competing against the suppliers, grocery chains,” he said.

Sometimes, they’re even competing against other food banks in the region.

Earlier this month, Gov. Jay Inslee launched the Washington Food Fund to help raise money for food banks. So far, it's raised more than $2 million. Sandison estimates the state will need at least $11 million to meet the unprecedented demand.