Updated Dec. 3: A second deadline set by Food Lifeline for the Queen Anne Food Bank to bring its employment policy into compliance with the nonprofit's own policy prohibiting discrimination came and went. Food Lifeline tells Queen Anne News it is working past the deadline with Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, but is declining to provide further information.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish’s Father Rich Luberti provided the Queen Anne Community Council with an update on its work to keep maintain from Food Lifeline for the church’s food bank.

Luberti said during the Wednesday night meeting that the church’s legal counsel doesn’t believe changes to the food bank’s hiring policy, which now requires employees to live life in accordance with the Catholic faith, is discriminatory on the basis of First Amendment rights. In the interest of transparency, he said, the Queen Anne Food Bank’s name was changed to the Queen Anne Food Bank: a Ministry of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Food Lifeline and the Queen Anne Food Bank entered a contract agreement in 2014 that requires no discrimination of employees, volunteers, or clients, and Food Lifeline found the wording of the hiring policy to be just that.

Luberti said anyone can volunteer or receive meals at the food bank regardless of faith. The meal program runs 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday, and a grocery program is held on Thursdays.

Food Lifeline rescues millions of pounds of food from farmers, manufacturers, grocery stores, restaurants and retailers that otherwise would go to waste, and then redistributes it to partner agencies across Western Washington. It has 307 similar contract agreements with food banks and nonprofits in the region.

Luberti said he is waiting for the church’s legal counsel to inform him as to what should be done regarding Food Lifeline. The language of the policy in question remains unchanged.

Former Queen Anne Food Bank director Stephanie Monroney provided a less optimistic view of operations to the community council after Luberti took over the parish, said QACC chair Ellen Monrad. Monroney resigned several months ago. Monrad added she had since started volunteering at the food bank, and she felt operations were going well.

Luberti issued a letter to the parish on Sept. 23 that announced the hiring of Robert Bach as the new operations manager. He is a Culinary Institute of America graduate with 20 years of experience in the food industry.

“He and his wife are Catholics who just moved to the Sacred Heart area,” reads Luberti’s letter to parishioners. “Robert is looking forward to leading the food bank as a way of giving back to the community. Please welcome him as he continues this important ministry in our parish.”

Parishioner Tom Walsh was also at the Nov. 7 meeting, having taken a staff position with the food bank after spending a year volunteering there.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s a hot issue there anymore,” Walsh said of the ongoing matter with Food Lifeline.

Food Lifeline had given the food bank until the end of October to reverse its new policy in order to continue receiving its support. Food Lifeline spokesperson Mark Coleman tells the Queen Anne News the Queen Anne Food Bank was granted another extension through November.

“Our team is thoughtfully reviewing the issue. We are working on a clear determination that is just and equitable for our agency partners and the communities they serve,” according to a prepared statement Coleman provided the Queen Anne News in an email. “We don't have additional comments at this time.”

Walsh said food bank volunteers pick up food from Food Lifeline through its emergency food assistance program, and estimated the nonprofit’s contribution to be just 10 percent of what the food bank receives in donations. He said local supermarkets, bakeries and coffee shops provide more assistance.

“We’ve had volunteers in the past who left in the past who sort of came back,” Walsh said, adding the food bank also receives help from many longtime volunteers.

Luberti said the food bank serves about 125-150 people each day.