Tania Peebles of Olympia brought a stool to sit on and a book to read while waiting in a line that stretched an entire city block for one of the Thurston County Food Bank’s Thanksgiving baskets on Monday.
But she didn’t get much reading done.
“This year it’s moving quite fast,” she said.
To decrease wait times, the food bank opened its doors a few hours early and coordinated with several other organizations to help deliver hundreds of the baskets to satellite locations, according to executive director Robert Coit.
All together, about 3,000 baskets were distributed to families in need.
“That’s how much we can do in the time frame,” Coit said.
Nearly 700 people volunteered over the weekend to prepare the baskets, which included turkey, stuffing, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce, gelatin, canned fruit and other Thanksgiving staples.
Oh, and there was plenty of fresh squash, which was the leading joke among volunteers.
“We had several tons of squash that were donated to the food bank,” said Rick Mullins, the food bank’s nutrition educator.
As a result, volunteers spent much of the weekend cutting, seeding and processing the squash.
It was a messy, time-consuming job, but one Mullins believes was worth it.
“People are more likely to use it as food versus a decoration,” he said.
In November, benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, were cut by about $40 per household per month, and the food bank has already seen an uptick in visits, Coit said.
“Basically what that means is another visit per household,” he said. “They’ll come back more.”
Georgia Beal, 59, of Olympia said she was thinking about “surviving the month” while picking up a Thanksgiving basket.
“I get $47 a month on food stamps,” she said. Beal added that she was excited about getting fresh squash, because she’s been craving it.
Food bank volunteer Carol Vannerson said the basket distribution went smoothly.
“The weather is a huge factor,” she said. “I think people are just calmer and happier when the weather is nice. People have been very appreciative.”
Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 email@example.com @Lisa—Pemberton