Breaking News
More () »

National Guard deployed to help Washington food banks

Food banks have increasingly been forced to close because of concerns for their volunteers' health in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak.

HAMILTON, Wash — Kari Diers is one of the countless volunteers on the front lines of this pandemic.

After the local food bank in the tiny Skagit County town of Hamilton closed due to coronavirus concerns, Diers went door to door delivering food to children.

Some of the homes are hot zones with infected people. She never knows what she might find behind the door.

"But what I know for sure is behind the door is a little kid who could use some food for the weekend, so that makes it worth coming out here," Diers said.

The Hamilton Food Bank is one of at least two in Skagit County to close its doors out of concern of the health of volunteers. Many are seniors, which makes them especially susceptible to severe cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

Rather than risk volunteers' safety, Hamilton Food Bank administrators have shut the food bank down.

The burden to get food to those who need it in Hamilton has fallen largely on the Helping Hands Food Bank, 30 minutes away in Sedro-Woolley.

They've been delivering up to 1,500 meals a day to neighbors in surrounding communities

"It's, it's exhausting," Executive Director Becky Larsen said.

RELATED: Skagit County food bank adapting to help those in need during coronavirus pandemic

RELATED: Food banks experience volunteer shortage as coronavirus spreads in Washington

And now some Helping Hands volunteers are falling ill and many more continue to put themselves at risk. Larsen said she needs outside help, or they too might have to close down.

"I've honestly drawn the line that if they don't help I'm gonna have to raise my hand and say we can't do this anymore. We cant put ourselves at risk without any help."

Governor Jay Inslee is now mobilizing 200 Washington National Guard members to bring relief to food banks throughout the state.

They are men and women like Iraq War veteran Isaac Beagle who are happy to help on the homefront.

"Considering some of the struggles I've gone through it feels good to give back because I've needed help in the past myself," he said.

The Guard can't come soon enough to Skagit County where an additional 1,600 new families asked for food last month alone.

Guard members are currently deployed in King and Pierce counties. They're expected to arrive in Skagit County by Monday.

Any food banks that need help from the National Guard should apply trough their county's Office of Emergency Management.

RELATED: Real-time updates: Latest news on the Washington coronavirus outbreak

Before You Leave, Check This Out