Fishline hosted its first community meeting via Zoom on April 15.
This community meeting offered a chance for North Kitsap residents to learn more about Fishline, its history in the community, what it has done over the last year to serve the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, and what it hopes to accomplish for the remainder of this year.
Fishline moved to its current location on Viking Avenue in 2019 and is recognized as one of the oldest food banks in the United States.
But Fishline is more than just a food bank. It’s a lifeline that has helped many get back on their feet, their literature says. Over the course of the last year and a half, Fishline has helped over 1,300 families and nearly 3,000 individuals, despite having to drastically change their service models due to the pandemic.
“Like many other food banks, we have had to be flexible and nimble and really re-think how our model” works, said Lori Maxim, Fishline executive director.
A unique thing about its food bank is it’s designed to look like a grocery store, which prior to COVID restrictions allowed clients to shop with dignity.
“Back in February, we never shut our food bank down but we moved our grocery store model to a drive-through model. Clients came in at a pre-set time, popped their trunk, and we would provide them with groceries,” Maxim explained.
The food bank feeds over 400 families a week and provides delivery services for its 100 or more homebound clients, Maxim hopes to reopen the food bank for in-person shopping when the county moves into Phase 4 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s recovery plan.
“Due to COVID protocols were limited to an occupancy of 25 to 35 percent, so we’re really hoping when we get to Phase 4 we’re going to be ready to open it up. But right now our drive-up model is working really well and what we’ve done is we have put tents and carts out that allow our clients more choices on fruits and vegetables,” Maxim said.
The only time the food bank shut down was for a 24 hour period, in February, due to a volunteer receiving a positive COVID test.
Prior to the coronavirus, Fishline had over 440 volunteers, now it’s down to 160, due to spacing requirements as well as the number of volunteers who fell into the higher risk of contracting COVID. Those interested in volunteering must be 16 or older, and in some cases must be fully vaccinated.
In addition to the food bank, Fishline provides a wide range of programs and partnerships with other regional services.
The programs include a second-hand clothes store called Second Season located a 7th Avenue, a birthday program that allows parents to get their kids toys and treats and most recently a shower program for the homeless.
Client Services manager Sandra Allen said: “We have a lot of programs, here at Fishline, so we will help people sign up for whatever programs they need, including our partnerships with Peninsula Community Health and Department of Social and Health Services.”
For the future, Fishline is hoping to expand some programs and create some new ones as well. It would like to expand its rental assistance program, as they anticipate there will be a great need when COVID stimulus checks are no longer being distributed and moratoriums on evictions and rent cease. Fishline is also looking at creating a mental health program, as many of its clients are dealing with those issues. Fishline released a survey to its clients to see if that is a program they would take advantage of.
“The economic devastation caused by COVID-19 is far from over. We’re anticipating and planning for a tidal wave of need when the rent moratoriums and stimulus checks come to an end,” Fishline board president Heather Torres said.