Last week, the Kitsap County Food Bank Coalition launched a long-overdue Facebook page. the coalition felt it was finally time to branch out from an infrequently updated website and help get further word out about the good work being done by member agencies.
The coalition consists of eight registered food banks across Kitsap County who have qualified by 501©(3) status, sharing documentation verifying their operations and by adhering to coalition bylaws.
Jennifer Hardison, executive director of South Kitsap Helpline, took on maintenance of the page on behalf of the coalition.
“We at the South Kitsap Helpline truly appreciate the partnerships we have through our association with the Kitsap County Food Bank Coalition,” Hardison said.
“Our coalition meets regularly to share information and vital resources with one another to help further our collective mission of helping those in need locally. When all of our agencies work together, we are an even stronger voice for the hungry in Kitsap County.”
The coalition members are Bainbridge Island Helpline, Bremerton Foodline, Central Kitsap Food Bank, North Kitsap Fishline, St. Vincent de Paul, Salvation Army, ShareNet and South Kitsap Helpline.
It’s good company to be in, as each agency occupies a unique service niche and has a long service record in their communities. All have a food bank as part of their operations, which is the unifying factor, but from there the differences are many.
Some have related social services under their umbrella, and some do not. Some have crisis assistance available, while others focus completely on food. Some operate backpack programs in the schools, and some offer summer lunch programs.
In some ways, the coalition resembles an old-fashioned trade organization, which shares information on policy and best practices, including safety. The ideal is that each organization is strengthened by its membership in the coalition, just as each of us is enriched by the network we know, or any business is strengthened by the alliances it makes. The coalition is in turn strengthened by the relative strengths or expertise of each member agency.
Coalition meetings are monthly, and rotate between partner meetings and visitor meetings, the latter making time for representatives from Food Lifeline, Northwest Harvest, Washington Food Coalition, Department of Social and Health Services and various community members who have contacted us regarding a related event, service or inquiry.
KCFBC is looked to as a model by other regions planning to form a coalition or learn from this body’s experience. Many regions do not have the benefit of a coalition, or find themselves comprised of members in conflict. This coalition is remarkably harmonious in working together and finding solutions to differences. Recently, we were visited by directors of the Sequim and Port Angeles food banks. Clallam and Jefferson agencies hope to form their own coalition.
The agencies have similar goals: how to best serve people in crisis and in need; how to constantly improve and refine those services; and how to have a real impact on hunger, with real results in getting people back on their feet. KCFBC operates in an environment of seemingly permanent and growing need due to dramatically increased food costs and decreases in government assistance programs.
Patti Petersen, executive director of Bremerton Foodline and current coalition secretary, sums it up nicely: “After almost 20 years working as a volunteer, board member and finally a staff member for the Bremerton Foodline, I have learned much about the collaboration that is needed to make food assistance a reality in our community. One the most critical collaborative efforts comes through participation in the Kitsap County Food Bank Coalition.
“Our local coalition allows participating member agencies and partners to share their own experiences on a meaningful level and provides a venue for conducting cooperative efforts and realizing best practices through the affiliation with statewide or regionally focused groups,” Petersen said. “Most importantly though is that the community benefits directly from the coalition members who can offer solutions and guidance.”
Chris Benson, current coalition president and director of Central Kitsap Food Bank, said, “We are all fighting the same fight. I have learned something from every single director in our coalition. We all have a specific skill set that one of our fellow directors can benefit from.”
The coalition Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/kitsapcountyfoodbankcoalition. The coalition website is: www.kcfbc.com.