As one of the four charities that receive funds from the Poulsbo Lions Club Bellringer Campaign, ShareNet spends most of that money on food purchases for their food bank.
“The particular funding we receive from the Lions we use for our Food2Go’ program, which is our school program that is now serving over one hundred kids per week during the school year,” said Mark Ince, ShareNet’s director. “The funds really allow us to augment our programs and to make sure that we are purchasing nutritious food for the program and that we can purchase the amount we need and make sure that every kid in need has food to eat.”
Naturally, COVID-19 has impacted ShareNet and how it typically operates. Like many organizations, ShareNet is following state guidelines and masking up and providing curbside pickup for families as well as delivery of school lunches to children in the Food2Go program.
“We had to completely overhaul the operation and the way we did business and distributed food,” Ince said. “It’s 100 percent exterior to the building now, so it’s drive-thru/ curbside service. People do not come inside the building, but they still have a chance to speak with an intake person and make choices about what they’re going to get that day.”
The Thriftstore located next door to the food bank had to be closed during the stay at home order, which resulted in lost supporting revenue for ShareNet. The thrift store was opened in 2007 soon after ShareNet established its location off United Road in Kingston, as means to support the food bank and its programs.
When retail stores were allowed to restart operation, the thrift shop opened but only for three days a week as opposed to five in order to balance work in the food bank and thrift shop while remaining socially distanced.
“We are really fortunate to have a core shopper base that hasn’t left us (due to restrictions) so we are really grateful for that,” Ince said.
Ince also noted that the coronavirus sparked an interesting development in both ShareNet and food banks across Kitsap County.
“What happened was client services actually during the first few months of the pandemic actually started to decline. But it was for obvious reasons. One thing was people were still trying to figure out what was safe and the other piece of it was that some of our folks were actually momentarily doing a bit better because SNAP was augmented, unemployment benefits were augmented, so for awhile some of these folks were doing a bit better, and so they needed the food bank less,” Ince said.
That was the first decline in services in over 10 years, but services began to ramp up again in July when it became apparent that a second stimulus package was not on the horizon.
“The numbers as of July have started to come back up again and have been getting closer to normal levels. But that’s the curious positions food banks find ourselves in because none of us know where this goes or end, and if there is going to be any more stimulus or augmentation. So what we’re facing is potentially a huge onslaught of need at some point,” Ince said.
ShareNet began in 1994 as a food pantry in Bayside Community Church in Kingston. The pantry was soon overrun due to a larger than anticipated need for food security, so the operation expanded to a trailer in the church parking lot, which was also eventually overwhelmed.
In 2018 ShareNet separated from the church and became its own 501c3 that over the course of the last 26 years has gone from providing about 2,000 individual services for families to 24,000.
“A lot of that growth was seen following the mortgage crisis of 2008,” Ince said.
Ince also said that the best way for folks to help out the food banks at this time is through financial donations.