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Coronavirus In Seattle
caption: Washington Air National Guardsman Dahdia Hicks organizes jars of peanut butter along an assembly line on Tuesday, April 21, 2020, at the Food Lifeline Covid Response Center along East Marginal Way South in Seattle. 
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Washington Air National Guardsman Dahdia Hicks organizes jars of peanut butter along an assembly line on Tuesday, April 21, 2020, at the Food Lifeline Covid Response Center along East Marginal Way South in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Photos: WA National Guard steps in to help with food bank's growing needs

Washington National Guard soldiers are sorting, packaging, and distributing food at a new emergency response center set up by Food Lifeline as a result of the growing need for food in Washington prompted by the coronavirus outbreak.

The 166,000-square-foot Food Lifeline Covid Response Center was filled with 250 Washington Army and Air National Guardsmen on Tuesday as they boxed up items like cheerios, peanut butter, and juice along assembly lines.

“What makes this particular response different is just the very steep increase in need in our communities,” said Amythst Shipman, director of operations strategy at Food Lifeline.

“As a result of the impact of Covid-19, food needs throughout the state have grown drastically as a result of layoffs and business closures,” Shipman said.

According to a Food Lifeline press release, the need has nearly doubled since the Covid-19 outbreak while food donations have dropped by 70%.

The new facility along East Marginal Way South will allow Food Lifeline to “more than double its staffing to better meet the community’s needs, which are outstripping current capacity,” according to the release.

“The thing that’s really remarkable about this particular effort is the amount of support and creativity and work that people have brought to the table to lend whatever they can to help feed people in our communities,” Shipman said.

The boxes will be distributed throughout 17 different counties and will serve 300 food banks in Western Washington.

“Our folks here are just happy to serve,” said Joe Siemandel, a public affairs officer with the Washington National Guard.

“That’s what we’re here for is to help our neighbors,” Siemandel said.