Lyle Food Bank Helps Neighboring Communities

Tammy Kaufman

Across the nation, the economic impact of COVID-19 restrictions has increased the need for food stability programs. According to an article in the Seattle Times on September 10, 2020, 1 in 5 Washington residents could face hunger by the end of this year, as effects from the pandemic take a toll on families as well as the food distribution system. Data shows a marked increase in the number of those asking for assistance who have never been to a food bank before.

The Lyle Good Food Pantry reports that on average each month 50 families are being served, and for 15 of those families this is the first time they have asked for support within the Washington Gorge Action Programs (WAGAP) Food Bank system. This adds up to a site average of over 4,600 pounds of food or 3,700 meals being delivered each month.

The pantry began operating as a satellite site within the WAGAP Food Bank system on July 1, 2020. It serves clients from a wide range of areas including Lyle, High Prairie, Appleton, Dallesport and Murdock and is open on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. within the Lyle Activity Center at 308 Klickitat Street.

The pantry started this year in March to support students who were negatively affected by school closures, as school had been a major source of their food stability. The Lyle Community Council quickly recognized that this need extended beyond students to other families, the elderly and those who might have a limited ability to travel to secure their food. The council, in partnership with the Lyle School District and the Lyle Lions Club, created a volunteer effort out of the school’s cafeteria to organize a food drive, box food and then distribute it along the school bus route that was being used to deliver assignments to students. As the school year ended, the operation moved to the Lyle Activity Center and WAGAP agreed to make the effort part of its Food Bank network, to be staffed by local volunteers.

Kate Willsen volunteered to be the Lyle coordinator to continue the mission. “We have a great team to support locals with food stability concerns,” Willsen said. Community members are invited to join and volunteers can assist with a shift on a distribution day, help with packing boxes or other projects. “We invite community members to join us and we really appreciate the community’s help to spread the word about our bi-monthly services,” she said.

The Pantry is also accepting donations such as non-perishable foods and gluten-free, sugar-free and healthy kid-friendly food options. Baby and toddler goods are also welcome, as are eggs, dry pet food and grocery bags. Donations can be accepted on the morning of distribution days or call to arrange an exception. Monetary donations are also appreciated, and checks can be made out to WAGAP with Lyle Good Food Pantry written on the memo line and mailed to PO Box 364, Lyle, WA 98635.

Qualified individuals and families are eligible for one monthly food box which includes items such as canned goods, fresh produce, bread, and frozen meat. Guidelines for eligibility come from the Washington State Department of Agriculture under The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Janeal Booren, the WAGAP Food Bank Director, explained that TEFAP works on the honor system and to receive benefits a client’s family income could be up to 400% of the federal poverty level. Booren emphasized that regardless of income level, this is a non-judgmental program, “Our belief is that if you are in need, we are here for you.”

For additional questions, or to volunteer, please email lylefoodbank@wagap.org or call (509) 281-0884.

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