bellingham food bank jobs

Beginning Tuesday, December 1, Bellingham Food Bank will offer pre-packed food boxes at the updated drive-up locations. How It Works. Folks may visit twice per. Mike Cohen is the Executive Director of the Bellingham Food Bank, a particular job, and if they call in sick or are on vacation. Bellingham Technical College is establishing a pool of qualified candidates for the current academic year to work as Baristas (Food Service.

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Community and Agency Support Coordinator
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Occasional travel in service areas; must have reliable transportation and possess a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance.

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This includes screening applications, conducting initial site visits, obtaining required documentation, orientating agencies to food bank processes, and…

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Coronavirus crisis leaves food banks strapped for volunteers and donations, facing increased demand

Anna Patrick The Seattle Times 

A complex housing and food resources proposal for the Bellingham waterfront aims to address issues that had been simmering before the COVID-19 pandemic and came to a boil in 2020. 

Food and housing insecurity both increased as jobs evaporated last year. And for many families and commercial cooks, even if income wasn’t cut, finding local sources for meat, dairy and produce moved from a locavore lifestyle choice to a necessity. Supply chain disruptions cleared shelves in supermarkets, sending many shoppers out to local farms. 

Alluvial Farms on Goodwin Road near Everson, for example, reported that their orders for pasture-raised pork shares nearly tripled in from 2019 to 2020, from 44 to 126, before trending downward again this year. People who signed up in 2020 “commented on images of large-scale pork production which were in the news when COVID shut down pork processing plants,” wrote co-owner Katie Pencke in an email. “Other than that we also surmised that cooking more at home and supporting local farmers became increasing priorities.” 

Many Northwest Washington producers, for their part, risked having to discard crops and dairy products when restaurants and schools closed due to COVID. While some saw sharp increases in sales via CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) contracts for home delivery of produce boxes, others had been counting on their relationships with restaurants and other commercial buyers.

The crisis spotlighted gaps in food supply. It also spurred flexibility on the part of local food organizations. The Bellingham Food Bank was no longer able to safely collect and distribute fresh produce at its facility on Ellis Street. And with schools closed, the Common Threads Farm nonprofit, which coordinates school gardens and other community food education in Whatcom County, could not operate as usual. The Bellingham School District, which had opened a new central kitchen in 2018 to facilitate more fresh cooked meals and use of local produce, had no cafeteria breakfasts and lunches to supply.

Pivoting quickly, the Food Bank used grant money to purchase produce from local growers. The school district provided the certified kitchen and freezer space, along with expertise in large-batch cooking, and AmeriCorps volunteers from Common Threads got to work making soups, stews and sauces that went into the district freezers. This Food to Freezer project created and stored 37,000 quarts of varied products, to be used by the school district and the food bank in its feeding programs in the succeeding months. 

‘Food campus’ to the foreground

Already in planning in the background was a project to foster more of these linkages and build new ones. On Sept. 9, a long-discussed “food campus” project came a step closer to fruition along with a plan for affordable housing. Port of Bellingham commissioners voted bellingham food bank jobs to give The Millworks, a development group under the umbrella of the Whatcom Community Foundation (WCF), an option to buy 3.3 acres of the Georgia Pacific redevelopment site at the intersection of Laurel and Cornwall streets. Along with Mercy Housing Northwest, which intends to build a 70-unit affordable housing complex, Millworks has until Dec. 31, 2022, to raise the $2 million purchase price. 

The project will pair housing and family support services with a food campus: a collaborative combination of commercial kitchens, food truck resources, education and training, a grocery store and more, designed to showcase and support the region’s food resources.

At an estimated $50 million, it is an ambitious collaboration. “There are a lot of moving parts,” said Mauri Ingram, WCF President and CEO. Ingram said the complexity of the project presents both challenges and opportunities in reaching donors and investors. It adds to the challenges of raising funds but also opens up a variety of avenues for support.

The food campus is an umbrella concept — Ingram has called it a “food hub plus” — that could combine the elements of a food hub like the Puget Sound Food Hub (PSFH) in Burlington, with opportunities for training and education, and a highly visible showcase for Northwest Washington’s agricultural and marine bounty.

In a March 6, 2020, article in the Western Front Ingram defined a food campus as a place where components of the local food system can come together. She said farmers, along with other producers, buyers and food educators all would benefit from easier communication and collaboration with each other, and with access to office and production space. 

Priority in Skagit

The value of a food hub for local farms and fishers is demonstrated by the PSFH, which started under the auspices of the Northwest Business Agricultural Center in Mount Vernon and is now a farmer-owned cooperative. More than 50 producers in seven Northwest Washington counties use it to market their produce, meat, dairy and seafood, allowing commercial buyers to do one-stop shopping with an aggregated supply of foodstuffs from nearby family farms, and farmers to maintain their independent identities and reputations.

Cheryl Thornton, co-founder and market development coordinator for Cloud Mountain Farm Center in Everson, said the Puget Sound hub “has been a real boon in terms of access to local food.” Cloud Mountain is both a seller through the hub and its northernmost collection point.

The Port of Skagit County has a head start in prioritizing agricultural contributions and visibility. It built a 6,000-square-foot kitchen commercial kitchen on its property near the Skagit Airport in 2011.

Home of the nationally known Bread Lab and King Arthur Baking School, the kitchen provided a central focus for several enterprises promoting local crops — including Cairnspring Mills and Skagit Valley Malting. It will soon be the new home of Chuckanut Brewery, which is closing its Holly Street location in this October and expanding operations at its South Nut Taproom on Airport Drive in Burlington.

Another 123 acres off Peterson Road on Bayview Ridge, purchased by the Port in 2018, awaits a developer for value-added agriculture initiatives. 

Voter support

The idea has been in the works in Bellingham since 2013. Bellingham voters supported school bond issues in 2010 and again in 2018, with some of the money going to bellingham food bank jobs a central kitchen. WCF donated an additional $1 million to the project, and has worked with the district on food initiatives since then. 

WCF and Mercy Housing Northwest each have begun work on their side of the funding. It’s a big job, with a combined estimated cost of $50 million, about $25 million each. The foundation has engaged RMC Architects of Bellingham, which also designed the new Samish Commons housing project at the site of the old Aloha Motel, as the building architect. MIG, an international firm with offices in Seattle, is the landscape architect. 

Mercy Housing Northwest runs multiple properties in Whatcom and Skagit counties, including Sterling Meadows and Eleanor Apartments in Bellingham and Olympic Apartments in Mount Vernon 

Waterfront — and financial — united first credit union waycross ga projects are complicated by the waterfront location, which is particularly vulnerable both to earthquake damage and to rising sea levels from climate change; bank of america business customer service contact number but true,” said Ingram, and “all being factored into the planning and design.”

Other hurdles are financial. The housing proposal, which is a known quantity in funding circles, faces the long wait times, complex bureaucracy and strong competition common to federally funded projects. 

The food campus is a less familiar concept, with a potential tangle of public, private, profit and nonprofit interests. Ingram said the multiplicity of interests makes it more complex, but also opens up a variety of avenues to approach donors and philanthropic foundations for support. 

Ingram expects that downtown Bellingham’s designation as an Opportunity Zone under the federal 2017 tax reform legislation will help attract investment at the level needed for an ambitious project. This allows investors get some capital gains relief when investing within the zone. 

As the fundraising and investment search continues, the specifics of the campus and its users and tenants may change. Ingram asks proponents to “hold loosely” to the concept rather than fixating early on specific programs and enterprises there. For example, Sustainable Connections, which has been a planning partner since the project’s inception is “central, but what that means on the campus is to be determined,” she said.

Seeing the possibilities

Local food activists and producers are already thinking of possibilities for involvement. 

Max Morange, the emerging projects coordinator for the Bellingham Food Bank, pointed out that the Farm to Freezer project was only possible because the Bellingham School District kitchen had time and space available due to pandemic school closures. The food campus proposal “represents an asset that could make things like produce processing and value-added production of local soups a reality in the coming years.” 

Katherine Kehrli, associate dean of the Seattle Culinary Academy, founded and coordinates the Community Loaves project, which uses hundreds of volunteer bakers to donate thousands of high-protein sandwich loaves per month to food banks from Bellingham to Portland to Idaho.

Most of the flour, which is on target to total 80,000 pounds over the next year, comes from Fairhaven and Cairnspring mills in Skagit County. She is excited by the potential of a large community kitchen in this area. “I can’t help but salivate at the thought of an opportunity to gather Community Loaves bakers under one bellingham food bank jobs to create even larger delicious bread donations for our food pantries.”

Besides the lure of kitchens and freezers, food activists like Laura Plaut, founder and director of Common Threads, looks forward to more chances for informal collaboration. “It would be fantastic to be able to do value-added food in a commercial kitchen,” she said, and there is also the value of having people in like-minded organizations likely “to bump into each other in the hallway.”

Plaut also sees a role for the campus in making best use of one of Common Threads’s newest acquisitions, a food truck. Purchased through a grant from the State Office of Public Instruction, its main purpose is to bring healthy meals to children in more remote parts of Whatcom County in the summer, when school lunches may not be available or accessible. During the school year, Plaut imagines using the food campus resources to create teams of young cooks and entrepreneurs who could use the truck to learn business skills. 

In her own long view, Ingram hopes that “this fusion of community and economic development,” which will be the foundation’s biggest and most complex endeavor to date, will be “a once in a lifetime opportunity for a community” to center its aspirations and assets. She said she believes the scope and potential of the project could reach into the past as well as the future, connecting the waterfront to identities and cultures that long predate the tenure of Georgia Pacific and of Bellingham itself — a reminder that local edible bounty has shaped the culture and economy of this area for thousands of years. 

— Reported by Lane Morgan

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Mike Cohen

Mike Cohen is the Executive Director of the Bellingham Food Bank, a hub to connect neighbors and emergency food providers with a steady supply of nutritious groceries and fresh food for the past 40 years. The Bellingham Food Bank feeds 2,300 families across Whatcom County every week.

What is the Food Bank?

Our core belief is that hunger is unacceptable. Despite that conviction and belief, we know it’s a reality. Our goal is to try to get as much good food to the families who need it as we can. We put a real emphasis on investing in activities, purchases, volunteers, and staff to fill gaps around the donated food that we get. That means the families who visit us leave with a lot of good food, averaging around 60 pounds with a retail value of about $100. Depending on the week, 60 – 70 percent of that is nutrient dense, perishable, fresh food.

We’re heavily invested in our local agricultural sector because it’s such an asset for Whatcom County. We have wholesale purchasing agreements with about a dozen farms. We glean at almost all of those farms as well. If they have food still in the field that isn’t sellable, they invite our volunteers out there to get it before they plow the field. We also encourage home gardeners to donate excess produce.

That’s really changed what the food bank is for us, and for the families who visit. The combination of those programs last year resulted in just over 300,000 pounds of fresh, local, mostly organic produce.

We have a first federal bank of the midwest defiance ohio called Milk Money, where groups raise about $1,000 a month that is turned into a wholesale purchase through our partnership with Edaleen Dairy. They sell us the milk at cost. We’re now buying just over 900 gallons of milk a week because we heard from our customers that it’s a critical food item for them.

Anyone who wants or needs to visit the Food Bank can come. We don’t do means testing. If they need assistance and live in Bellingham, we’re here to serve them without judgment and with a lot of dignity. We know nobody wants to come to the Food Bank, so we try to make that experience as positive as we can.


Who visits the Food Bank?

Mostly families. We know from surveys we do annually that just over 35 percent of people who end up eating the food are kids. Another 15 percent are senior citizens. A lot are single moms. Just over 20 percent of the households have at least one veteran. About half the households have at least one person with a disability. Half were working, another half were unemployed or retired. They’re mostly really low income folks. The medium income the last time we did a survey was around $1,000 a month. It’s a lot of minimum wage workers, folks who can’t keep or find full-time work.

Are your one day at a time elena the same people over and over, or do you see people use the Food Bank during a certain time of need in their life?

Pre-recession, the trend was more episodic use. They may have had a medical bill or a staggering car payment. They’d use us for a week or a few months then be able to move off of needing our services until the next financial crisis hit.

Since 2007, our visits have gone up bellingham food bank jobs. People do not seem to be able to get out of the holes they’re in. Their ability to graduate and move on seems limited, at least evidenced by continued visits.

How many people volunteer?

In a month, we get about 200 folks volunteering. Some have been volunteering for over 10 years. We usually look for at least a three month commitment. Our volunteers do invaluable pieces of work. People can’t drop in and volunteer; they’re here for a particular shift, a particular job, and if they call in sick or are on vacation, we need to get that shift filled. They’re doing essential tasks to move the food from the back of the building out to our distribution floors. They’re involved in every aspect of our organization aside from driving the forklift or looking at our budget.

IMG_5017bellingham food bank jobs you well staffed for volunteers, or is that an ongoing need?

We aren’t actively looking for volunteers, because we’re almost always full. We always get people leaving and coming. We don’t have a big push out, but usually if someone is interested and has flexibility in their schedule, we can fit them in.

We are recruiting groups for our new space upstairs to help us work through sorting large volumes of donated food. There wasn’t space to do that before. If there’s a cohort of people that wants to do a team-building activity once a month, or even once a year for 2-3 hours, we can train folks in 15 minutes, then they can go through and sort a bunch of food for us. We can’t make use of that food until it’s sorted. We can take people at almost any time.

How’d you get to Bellingham?

In the summer of 1999, my wife had just graduated from graduate school and we’d been in Vermont for about eight years. We didn’t have kids at that point, and thought we should take the opportunity to explore. My wife had a sister on the Olympic Peninsula, so we decided to come out to the Northwest.

Bellingham had all the things we wanted: a small college city, near water, near mountains, and close to my wife’s sister. We thought we’d stay a year, but just fell in love with the community, and decided to stay. We came out here without jobs, and didn’t know anyone.


How’d you get involved with the Food Bank?

I did the AmeriCorps VISTA program right out of college, and worked at a newly built residence for chronically homeless and mentally ill folks in Burlington, Vermont. It made me committed to not just work in the nonprofit sphere, but in the basic needs sphere, trying to work with the community to help people who are really struggling.

I grew up with an older brother who had Downs Syndrome, and the effort my parents made to keep him from being institutionalized and then get mainstreamed in schools, and have a mainstream life experience was a lesson in civics that bellingham food bank jobs at a very young age. It helped build the person that I am. There’s lots of good work to do out there.

What do you love best about your job?

Working with the community. That’s a broad community: the volunteers who feel committed to the same mission, an incredibly dedicated staff, and a really generous community.

We have 1st amendment freedom of speech really good food bank. We excel at some things that other food banks don’t. It’s all because of the support we get from Bellingham and Whatcom County. If we relied just on foundations and government support, we’d have an average food bank. We get a lot of support of all types, whether it’s local food retailers or processors who donate food, people who donate funds, time or expertise. It allows us to be what all food banks should be, which is to try to get great food to folks who need it, and access citizensbank com student loans things they deserve but can’t purchase because of their economic situation.

What is your favorite thing about Bellingham?

That’s hard. There’s a lot of favorites. I love the mountains. I love to backcountry ski, hike, and run. My best selfish Mike day is backcountry skiing with friends in the mountains.

But, axis bank netbanking login india best thing about Bellingham is my family and friends. You can be in some pretty awesome places, but if you don’t get to share and experience that with people who enhance that experience, it’s not as rich.

It’s all the surrounding stuff about Bellingham, but it’s the people who are my family’s community that make it extra special.

What’s your favorite spot downtown?

Besides the Food Bank? Well, Black Drop Coffee has awesome coffee. I like Mount Bakery. I love the library. Any one of the breweries.

Is there a particular brewery that’s a favorite?

Wander is right across from the Food Bank. I like our neighbors. But, Boundary Bay has been incredibly generous with events. They set the tone for how a brewery should behave.

Is there a sense of community between different organizations?

I think so. We work really hard to share resources and not duplicate work. Because it’s part of our job, we provide and share food with more than a dozen folks—whether it’s the Boys and Girls Club, YWCA, Lydia Place, the Mission, or the Rainbow Center. We see their staff and volunteers because we get them food. There’s a pretty strong connection.

I love the fact that the three biggest philanthropic organizations are now co-located at the Washington Federal building. The Whatcom Center for Philanthropy houses the Whatcom Community Foundation, the United Way of Whatcom County, and the Chuckanut Health Foundation. They’re all supportive of us, and/or the families we work with. It’s awesome they’re all in one spot, and all downtown.

I try to walk through downtown at least once a day. If not on an errand, to take a break.


Is there a new business or organization you’d most like to see in town?

Professionally speaking, any business that pays good living wage jobs. That’s the solution for the families we serve. Hunger is a condition of poverty. We’re a band aid. We’re not solving the hunger problem, but we’re hopefully helping it. We’re one of the few nonprofits whose mission doesn’t say that we’re working to put ourselves out of business. That’s a naive orientation for working in the hunger relief world. We don’t control people’s wages, cost of health insurance, and all the things that lead to poverty.

Personally, I really miss restaurants like Nimbus. Places that are really creative with food, and take a risk. I’m willing to pay that price for food I can’t cook at home. I’d like to see a place like that come back.

If you had to enroll at Western today, what would you major in?

I’d like an MBA. When volunteers or folks come through here that are thinking about what type of graduate degree to get, I steer them away from a social work degree, and toward an MBA. They’re really transferrable skills. That’d give me the most flexibility.

I don’t think they have a culinary arts program at Western, otherwise I’d do that.

What do people not understand about the Food Bank that they should?

That we can do wildly creative and impactful things with monetary support. I’m really proud of the strides we’ve made in changing the quantity and quality of food folks get. The only thing that limits us is the resources to do it. We’re not struggling financially, but we can always do more with more.

And who we’re serving. There’s a broad misconception about who needs hunger relief support in Whatcom County. It’s good people, people who either can’t find work or are unable to work. Or, people who don’t get paid a living wage job.

You probably know folks who go to the Food Bank. Last year, about 20 percent of Bellingham came to our Food Bank on a regular basis. Your bank teller may need the Food Bank, your barista might need the Food Bank, your server might need the Food Bank, the person helping you at REI might need the Food Bank. It’s a lot more regular folks than people realize.

bellingham food bank jobs

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