Photo by Jessica Keller: Washington State National Guard Second Lt. Nicholas Hathaway sets out melons to be picked up by patrons underneath a tent at the Queen Anne Food Bank, 232 Warren Ave. N. in Uptown, Thursday afternoon. The National Guard members have filled an important need for the food bank, but manager Stephen Kreins would like to build more volunteer reserves for when the National Guard volunteers are called elsewhere.
Photo by Jessica Keller: Washington State National Guard Second Lt. Nicholas Hathaway sets out melons to be picked up by patrons underneath a tent at the Queen Anne Food Bank, 232 Warren Ave. N. in Uptown, Thursday afternoon. The National Guard members have filled an important need for the food bank, but manager Stephen Kreins would like to build more volunteer reserves for when the National Guard volunteers are called elsewhere.

The Queen Anne Food Bank needs extra help, not only for the holidays, but beyond, as well.

Since April, the food bank, at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, 232 Warren Ave. N. in Uptown, has relied on National Guard members to provide much of the heavy lifting and volunteer work, but they will be going on leave for the holidays.

Food bank manager Stephen Kreins needs additional help beyond the holidays, however. He said it is likely the National Guard members will be assigned elsewhere in late winter, leaving the food bank without crucial help.

“I’m trying to build up our volunteer base,” he said.

Ideally, Kreins said, he would like a pool of 40 volunteers a week, with about eight coming in every day. Right now, he has three regular volunteers other than the National Guard members.

The food bank offers two primary programs, its lunch sack program Monday through Friday, and the food bank on Thursday afternoons.

For the lunch sack program, people can come to the food bank doors and receive a bag filled with at least two sandwiches and other small items, the food bank has been receiving additional help from community churches and organizations, Kreins said. St. Anne Catholic Church brings in about 300 sandwiches for the sack lunch program on Mondays. Queen Anne Methodist Church brings in 300 sandwiches every Thursday.

“A lot of people have just been making sandwiches at home and bringing them in,” Kreins said.

A handful of other volunteers have been making and bringing in 50 to 60 sandwiches periodically.

“That’s actually a huge help,” Kreins said, adding it can take up to four people to make sandwiches each morning without people dropping them off.

Members of the Kavana Cooperative, an independent Jewish community in Queen Anne, have also stepped up by offering to help out this week.

While other organizations offer dinners, the Queen Anne Food Bank can only continue with its regular operations for the holidays.

“The needs here don’t go away,” Kreins said. “This is ongoing, 365 days a year.”

Kreins is worried, however, the food bank will run into trouble after the National Guard leaves. Their stay has been indefinite since they arrived, and the food bank has been fortunate they have stayed so long, Kreins said.

The food bank relies on volunteers to help do a range of tasks, including making sandwiches, putting sack lunches together, setting out the lunches, prepping for the next day, driving to pick up food on “grocery rescue trips” and putting the food away.

On food bank days, he needs at least an additional person to help carry 30- to 40-pound food boxes upstairs and set it out.

He said he would also like four or five volunteers available to make grocery rescues at the grocery stores and bakeries that donate to the food bank.

Volunteers would be needed from 7 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday and from noon to 4 or 4:30 p.m. Thursdays, which are regular food bank distribution days.

Without the volunteers, Kreins said he and one helper are the bulk of the staff for the moment.

“We just work a lot,” he said.

In addition to extra volunteers, the food bank also needs another cargo van, as the current one that was donated is 28 years old and needs significant work. Volunteers use the van to make grocery rescues for the food bank, and Kreins said it struggles to make it up hills and needs new brakes.

As it is, he will probably have to start leasing a van to make the daily trips through the end of December.

If nobody can donate a cargo van, then Kreins said somebody with experience writing grants or who could even point him in the direction of looking for a van would be ideal.

“I’m actually surprised how many people will give us stuff if you ask for it for the food bank,” Kreins said.

At the moment, Kreins said the only food donations the food bank could use are sliced meat and sliced cheese for the sandwiches, which is the biggest food cost. Kreins said, before COVID, four volunteers would come into the small kitchen each day to make egg salad and tuna fish sandwiches, but the kitchen is too small to allow for that.

The food bank also is collecting new socks, gloves and beanies, as well as used or new ponchos and jackets. Hygiene items, like razors, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste are also helpful.

To ensure safety, the food bank has established safety protocols that will be followed. To sign up to volunteer, or for more information, email Director Steve Kreins at Steve@qafc.org, or call 530-301-5794. To learn more about the food bank, or to donate, go to qafb.org.