SEDRO-WOOLLEY — Two and a half years after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Helping Hands Solution Center to shut down its grocery-style food distribution program, the county’s largest food bank has restarted the program.
On Monday, local produce, bread and other essentials were stacked on the center’s grocery store shelves.
CEO Rebecca Skrinde said she’s excited to again offer another choice to those in need of help to feed their families.
“It feels better, more human, to grab what (your) family wants to eat,” she said.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the nonprofit was forced to change the way it distributes food. Staff and volunteers quickly pivoted to drive-thru distribution of prepackaged boxes.
While safer than indoor distribution, it meant recipients were given food they or their kids weren’t going to eat.
“Now, people can come in here and they don’t have to take a bunch of beans and rice they might not want,” said Deputy Director Rick Baillie.
The nonprofit will continue to hand out prepackaged food boxes for those who aren’t ready to come indoors, he said.
Staff, volunteers and about 100 members of the National Guard handed out 15 million pounds of food since the start of the pandemic to try and meet a growing need, Skrinde said.
Now, as inflation continues to put pressure on struggling families, she said she expects the need won’t fall any time soon.
Inflation has also made it more expensive for Helping Hands to buy food, she said. Thankfully, donors and government assistance during the pandemic both spiked, allowing Helping Hands to grow to meet the need.
“If something good came out of COVID, it was that food banks became essential, not just something nice to have,” Skrinde said.
During Monday’s reopening, state Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, thanked Helping Hands for its crucial work during the pandemic, saying it showed the best of Skagit County.
“We are a resilient community,” he said. “We are resilient because we care about the people around us.”
Helping Hands Solution Center is located at 24703 Wicker Road. Food is available 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays, noon to 4 p.m. Thursdays and 3 to 6 p.m. Fridays.
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