Photo by Jessica Keller: Washington National Guard 1st Lt. Qixuan Huang, left, and Private 1st Class Juwon Lee prepare sandwiches for the to-go lunches prepared for anyone in need Monday morning at the Queen Anne Food Bank at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Lower Queen Anne.
Photo by Jessica Keller: Washington National Guard 1st Lt. Qixuan Huang, left, and Private 1st Class Juwon Lee prepare sandwiches for the to-go lunches prepared for anyone in need Monday morning at the Queen Anne Food Bank at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Lower Queen Anne.

Food banks organizers across the country have reported food shortages and fewer volunteers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic in America, but the Queen Anne Food Bank at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish is facing different challenges.

Food bank directors Stephen Kreins and Father Rich Luberti are serving more people seeking lunches every morning or picking up bags of food from the food bank Thursday afternoons. That is the only constant at the food bank, however. Everything else changes from day to day, from the number of volunteers to the amount of food available, Kreins said.

Monday morning, Kreins was surprised to see two members of the Washington National Guard making up sandwiches to put in the grab-and-go lunch bags that would be picked up later in the morning. They were welcomed alongside the two other volunteers, although Kreins said he didn’t know they would be there.

“It’s kind of feast or famine with the volunteers,” Kreins said. “The food is the same way.”

When Gov. Jay Inslee issued his proclamation limiting the restaurants and shops serving food to curb-side delivery and takeout in response to the threat of COVID-19 cases overwhelming the city, the food bank found itself with a surplus of food donations, mostly produce or other products with a short shelf life, from restaurants that were closing for the duration or had extra food they did not need. This came in addition to the regular food shipments the food bank already receives.

“Two weeks ago, we were just overwhelmed,” he said.

While the donations from restaurants are tapering off, Kreins said the food bank still has extra food it cannot use, usually produce or pre-made meals, so he has been loading up the surplus and taking it to nearby public housing for distribution.

At the same time, Kreins said the food bank has a shortage of food needed for its sack lunch program.

“I had to reach out for help filling the lunch bags,” he said.

Fortunately, community organizations, like the Boy Scouts, and area churches help out where they can. St. Anne’s, for example, agreed to provide sandwiches to the food bank on Mondays.

The sandwiches are much appreciated because food bank volunteers have been distributing about 200 hundred lunches per day, which is up about 10 percent from about three weeks ago, Kreins said.

The food bank used to serve soup and sandwiches but had to suspend the soup portion because of social distancing measures. Patrons now pick up the bagged lunches set out for them. The meals typically include a sandwich and three or four sides — usually trail mix, fruit cups, individual servings of yogurt and granola bars — plus water. Staff put out pastries, bread and fruit that people can take as they want.

Kreins said before the pandemic, sandwiches were frequently tuna or egg salad, but without cans of tuna or eggs being delivered from suppliers, the food bank had to improvise.

“We’ve been buying a lot more cold cuts lately,” Luberti said.

Food bank bags are also pre-packaged and set out for people to pick up at the back of the facility. They include produce, a couple of dairy and meat items, canned fruits and vegetables, pasta, sauce, grains and pastries or other desserts. If they are available, patrons can take bread and fresh fruit.

As with the sack lunches, about three weeks ago, the number of people requesting food bank bags increased, Kreins said. Volunteers are now making about 80 to 100 bags of food weekly. That does not count the additional bags distributed to people who can’t leave their house because they are shut ins or recovering from COVID-19.

“We’ve been getting quiet a few calls for that,” Kreins said, adding he now delivers bags of food to people on Wednesdays, leaving the parcels in front of a residence while somebody waits inside.

Kreins said the people coming to get food and lunches are split between homeless people and residents who are out of work and just “can’t make it” without the help.

“And they know they can get a good meal here,” Kreins said.

Even though the food bank has experienced a food surplus for one side of its operations and a shortage on the other, the food bank’s circumstances could change once again the longer the shutdowns last and if the economy gets worse.

“I think what’s been keeping us OK is people bringing in food,” Kreins said.

Right now, the food bank needs donations for its lunch program, including lunch meat, yogurt, fruit cups, granola bars and trail mix. Donations of socks are also always welcome. Kreins said would like to start handing out things like socks and hygiene supplies again soon.

Monetary donations are also always welcome and needed.

“We have to raise money to support this,” Kreins said, adding the food bank does not receive any monetary assistance except for what is raised or donated.

Sack lunches are availablefrom 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, and the food bank is open from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays at the Queen Anne Food Bank at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, 232 Warren Ave. N., Seattle.

For more information, or to donate to the food bank, go to qafb.org.