ShareNet food bank in Kingston is restoring some dignity to its clients through its new holiday meal shopping program.
ShareNet has been serving folks in Kingston and the northern parts of Kitsap County since the program began in 1993 at Bayside Church.
In 2007 the program moved from the church to its current location and also started a thrift store to help support the work of the food bank. In 2018, ShareNet counted some 24,000 services to those in need.
Like many food banks this time of year, ShareNet is working hard collecting items to package the necessities for holiday meals. Except for this year, the food bank is trying something a little different.
“We’re trying a new experiment this year, which is … basically, we are giving away gift cards this year for the first time rather than the actual Thanksgiving boxes. In addition to the gift cards were going to give away turkeys,” said Mark Ince, executive director of ShareNet. Ince noted that many food banks have used similar strategies, but this is a first for Kitsap County.
“The gift card amount has to do with the size of your family, so they’re in different increments, so obviously if you’ve got eight people in your family you’re going to get the most amount on your card. The reason we are trying it, and seeing how it works this year, is because we realize that every family is really individual in what they might like to prepare and their own traditions. So rather than having us say ‘here’s your Thanksgiving box’ … the gift card allows them the freedom to shop and pick what they want to have for Thanksgiving,” Ince said.
Similar to Fishline in Poulsbo’s “Fish bucks” this gift card program allows ShareNet’s clients to regain or maintain some dignity, especially during a time of year when things can be particularly difficult.
ShareNet will still be receiving donations and purchasing goods for holiday meals, but those will go out through the regular operations of the food bank.
This new way of distribution for the holidays will not only hope to restore some dignity to folks that use it, but it will also solve some logistical issues facing a small food bank like ShareNet in terms of storing items for the holiday boxes versus everyday food bank items.
“Just having it all under one roof, at one time, at the same time as we’re doing our regular food bank distribution, it was just too much stuff, we didn’t have enough storage for it,” Ince said.
ShareNet would often have to store things at nearby grocery stores where the items were purchased and pick them up on the day of distribution, which often proves a major logistical issue.
One of the other things that makes Sharenet unique as a food bank is that while they do rely heavily on donations, they also do a lot of purchasing of items on the open market that clients have identified as things they want.
“We do this for a couple of different reasons, one is we want to have good food to distribute, the second reason is it allows us to be able to do a more systematic distribution as opposed to just a random one,” Ince said.