Food banks on volunteer interest in Arlington

ARLINGTON – When Jerrie Inman's mom died in 1998, she made a promise to her that she would volunteer for the food bank.

Arlington Community Food Bank volunteers Debbie Benson

ARLINGTON – When Jerrie Inman’s mom died in 1998, she made a promise to her that she would volunteer for the food bank.

Inman’s mom, Geraldine, was a firm believer in helping those less fortunate, as she managed the food bank in Darrington.

Inman finally followed through on the promise three years ago.

“Those southern mothers will haunt you,” Inman joked.

Inman is playing a major role this Christmas season as the Arlington Community Food Bank gives away ingredients to 400 families in need of help.

Arlington gave the food out over two days instead of one and gave out tickets so customers would know when to come in, making wait times shorter.

“At times we were inundated,” Inman said. “If we don’t do tickets everyone comes at once.”

Before Arlington moved into its new location at 19119 63rd Ave. N.E. April 1 the all-volunteer staff looked at “best practices” from other area food banks to come up with the best system for their clients.

Customers come in, check what items they need from a grocery list, and volunteers shop for them as they wait. In just a few minutes, their grocery carts are full.

Arlington gets a lot of help from a lot of businesses and people.

It received a windfall of sorts from the Stillaguamish Tribe last year with a $100,000 check in early December. But this year, when the food bank needed more hams for Christmas, the tribe provided them.

Every day a volunteer takes Arlington’s box truck to one of the Wal Marts in Marysville to load up items. Safeway donates a lot, too. Donations of food are way up this month – $51,000 worth in half a month. That is about the same as all of November and up from $15,000 in July.

The Santa Run and other food drives also bring in a number of donations.

“All of the churches in town give us something for the holiday,” Inman said. “We don’t have to buy much food.”

As for customers, 40 percent are adults, 32 percent kids and 25 percent seniors. There are only a few “huge” families, Inman said. The average size in three. About 625 different families used the service this year, coming in twice a month.

Inman said the food bank is operated just like a store. They have to rotate stock so the oldest is out first. Dry foods they can used up to a year after the pull date and canned foods five years. Boeing donated a much-larger refrigerator and freezer so items such as meats can be stored longer.

“We can freeze twice as much as before. Boeing used it to cool plane parts,” Inman said.

Boeing, Bank of America and others help in other ways. When volunteers from those businesses do work, say paving or moving 50,000 pounds of food from the old to the new site, those firms will match the work with a monetary donation.

Inman said the food bank missed out on about 7,000 pounds this year from the Northwest Harvest Food Drive because they lacked volunteers. That might not hurt right now but “We’ll feel it in the summer.”

Inman said it can be hard to get vounteers because it is a physical job and retired people are just so busy.

“You have to make time to volunteer,” she said, adding schools also are requiring fewer community service hours from students.

It’s tough work, a lot of lifting and standing,” Inman said.

Another program the food bank does to help the community is giving out bags of food at K-12 schools to those who sign up for them. The 75 bags given away for winter break had more items in usual in them. The number of homeless bags they made have dropped since the city passed its no loitering law.

Utility bills are lower since they moved to the new place. “I used to go home it was so cold,” Inman said.

Ever since Kimberly Clark closed down, the Arlington food bank has been hurting for toilet paper.

“People seldom donate that, so when the American Legion did I was overjoyed,” Inman said.

Food and non-perishable donations can be dropped off:

Monday and Friday from noon-1 p.m.

Wednesday between 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Suggested donation items:

Dry cereal, instant oatmeal, peanut butter, instant soup, Top Ramen, macaroni and cheese, pasta, small bags of sugar/flour, canned fruit/vegetables/soup/chili/stew/chicken/tuna/sauces, condiments (ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salad dressing, etc.), protein/sport drinks, baby food/cereal, diapers/ wipes, applesauce squeeze tubes, granola bars, gluten free/diabetic items, toiletries (toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, feminine products), dish soap and laundry detergent.

Go to or call at 360-435-1631. Donations are tax deductible.

Monetary donations:

It cannot take online donations at this time. So make checks out to Arlington Community Food Bank and send to 19118 63rd Ave. NE, Arlington WA, 98223.

To volunteer:

Go to:

Food drives

Contact Leah Robinson at 425-327-8360 or



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