A bigger and better response to the hunger and homelessness crises is what is on the mind of Bremerton Foodline’s new executive director, a Kitsap native dedicated to the nonprofit world for several years.
Eleven of those years have been spent as executive director at the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank, but now Cori Kauk is thrilled to come back to serve her in-need home community. “When this position opened up, I was super excited,” she said. “I grew up in Bremerton, so I’m coming home.
Kauk attended local school districts, ultimately graduating from Central Kitsap High before attending what was Olympic Community College.
She wasn’t planning a career in nonprofits, but being in an abusive relationship during college and seeing the resources available changed her mind. With permission from the college, she filled her remaining graduation requirements with volunteer work at a local women’s care shelter. That turned into a job and then her profession.
“I was seeking that out because I was learning that there are probably a lot of college students, tons of women, affected by domestic violence,” she said. “It’s such a cycle, and I felt like it was really important to be a part of one little baby step helping people get out of those situations.”
Kauk returns to a hurting community, homelessness a major citywide issue. Many of them struggle for their meals.
“The poverty here is much more obvious than the poverty in Issaquah,” Kauk said, “and both lend themselves to different approaches and challenges. We served about 5,000 individuals a week at about 2,000 households a week in Issaquah…but the need in my mind is way greater here.”
The outreach requires an expansion not necessarily in size, but for how frequent and widespread services are. While exploring past successes, she hinted at the possibility of the Bremerton Foodline consistently operating longer hours and even the weekends. “We’re missing a whole demographic of people who need food resources,” she said.
Working smarter is key, too. Foodline is undergoing renovation to make its client grocery as “store-like” as possible, ensuring a comfortable and dignifying environment for those in need.
Also, “we need the right food in order for people to keep coming. For people who are unhoused, they need easy grab-and-go stuff, nutritious food, and, recognizing that we have different cultures here, we need culturally diverse food options.”