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The Thurston County Food Bank serves all

Hunger affects military and civilian families

The Thurston County Food Bank works to ensure that all have enough to eat. Photo courtesy Thurston County Food Bank

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Saint Teresa of Calcutta, better known as Mother Teresa, once said, "If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one."

This is the attitude which characterizes the Thurston County Food Bank, which last year provided food to more than 57,000 individuals.

"That number is growing," food bank development director Judy Jones explained in an email. "We are a resource for anyone in Thurston County who finds themselves in need of support, and there are many in need."

The Thurston County Food Bank serves Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, surrounding growth areas and underserved parts of the county. To reduce access barriers, the bank also works in collaboration with community partners to operate 18 satellite food banks.

Additionally, mobile food banks roll into nine low income neighborhoods -- primarily mobile home parks and apartment complexes -- and the food bank partners with four school districts to provide weekend food bags at 33 elementary schools and one Head Start program.

The latest figures from Feeding America indicate that approximately 33,000 people in Thurston County are food insecure. Of this number, about 11,000 are children.

Included in these numbers are servicemembers and their families.

"Approximately 12 percent of those we serve self-identify as having a veteran in the home or being active-duty," Jones said.

While she could not provide a specific example of a military family needing help, Jamie Milletary, a program outreach coordinator with the food bank, pointed out that there is a common denominator to why servicemembers require food assistance.

"I talk with many servicemembers who walk through our doors, and the story is always the same," began Milletary. "They need food assistance because their basic allowance for housing (BAH) and basic allowance for sustenance (BAS) makes it look like they don't qualify for basic food; on paper it looks like a much better situation for the family than the reality they face."

Milletary also said that most of the time it is a mother with a couple of children who comes to the food bank needing help.

"She'll make a few comments about the struggle to make ends meet," continued Milletary. "The conversation usually ends with a lot of gratitude that the Thurston County Food Bank is there for them."

The food bank and its staff pride themselves on being easily accessible, and that individuals do not have to fit into or under a certain income bracket.

When it comes to funding, Jones said that 97 percent of all donated funds go directly to the food bank's mission.

"The donations that come from the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) are vital to the help we provide to those in need in Thurston County," said Jones.

The food bank's CFC number is 39770.

"We are a resource for any and all who need us," she concluded, "whether it is a family or an individual, we are here to support all."

For more information about the Thurston County Food Bank, visit, or call 360.352.8597.

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