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Food banks experience volunteer shortage as coronavirus spreads in Washington

Many food bank volunteers are seniors, who have been advised to stay home while coronavirus spread.

Local food banks are asking for help after most of their volunteer staff is being advised to stay home as a precaution while coronavirus continues to spread.

Some food banks in western Washington are dealing with a volunteer shortage.

”A lot of our volunteers are seniors and they’re staying home to avoid exposure to any possible illness so we support that,” said Colleen Martinson, the communication director for Ballard Food Bank.

Non-profits like the Ballard Food Bank said volunteers aren’t the only struggle right now, food donations are also down.

“A lot of the food that we get at the food bank comes from grocery stores in the area, we’ve all seen that the store shelves are bare, everyone’s stocking up. That’s impacting the food that we have available." 

North Helpline Emergency Food Bank is also noticing some changes.

”We’ve had some volunteers who are regulars who are staying home as is recommended, which we totally support, but it's left some holes,” said Kelly Brown, executive director of North Helpline.

Staff at North Helpline is increasing volunteer recruiting efforts to fill those holes.

In Snohomish County, Volunteers of America Western Washington, which runs and operates a food bank in Everett, depends heavily on volunteers, many of those are seniors.

”It’s takes a little bit longer for the food to get sorted and get ready for the clients to come in so, yes, it is a bit of a struggle,” said Chris Hatch with Volunteers of America Western Washington.

Despite the volunteer shortage, food banks are committed to providing the crucial service for people in need.

“We want to be here for our community and we serve some of the most vulnerable people out there so we’re not going anywhere,” said Martinson.

Food banks are encouraging people who aren't in a high-risk group and not sick, to sign up to volunteer.

Sign up to volunteer or donate to the Ballard Food Bank here

Volunteer at the North Helpline Emergency Food Bank here.

Volunteer at the Volunteers of America Western Washington here

Find full coronavirus coverage here

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