Children Pray for Daily Bread

Hunger stalks many families on the Eastside – an alarming statement to be sure, but all too true. In Bellevue alone, more than 200 students are known to be homeless; these children have no pantry or refrigerator to open in search of a snack. In the Bellevue School District, over 4,000 students qualify for free or reduced-price meals served at school. For some, the breakfast and lunch they get at school will be the only food they eat all day. For these students and their families, having enough to eat is always in question. Their prayers “for daily bread” are quite literal.

The hunger pangs are there, hidden below the surface appearance of many low-income people for whom shelter, safety, and sufficient food can never be taken for granted. Parents struggle to sustain their families and provide the basic necessities of life, often working two or more minimum wage jobs, just to pay rent and keep the lights on. Weekends can be especially difficult because the children lack access to meals provided at school on Saturdays and Sundays.

Since 1998, Renewal Food Bank (RFB) has been filling the gap for many Eastside families. An independent, non-profit agency and a member of Northwest Harvest and Food Lifeline hunger relief network, RFB serves 250 families every week. Over the years, RFB has provided food security for over 350,000 people.

With a very modest operating budget (less than $100,000 a year), RFB continues to serve 250 families each week, or 13,000 family visits annually. This is possible because of the generosity of community members and faith-based organizations donating food and household sundries consistently. It literally takes a community of caring volunteers, businesses, churches and service organizations to keep the food bank going. Every donation is welcomed and sincerely appreciated.

RFB Executive Director, Rich Bowen says, “Here at Renewal Food Bank, our desire is to strengthen our community by meeting the needs of the most vulnerable people in East King County. We partner with City of Bellevue and other local social services, businesses, schools, churches, and individuals who have the heart to feed the hungry in our community. We need your help!”

Here are some ways you can partner with Renewal Food Bank:

• Tell those in need about us and help them get the groceries they need!
• Volunteer at Renewal Food Bank — one time, bi-monthly, every week
• Support RFB at work through your company’s United Way campaign (once our IRS filing for 501(c)3 status is approved)
• Organize a neighborhood food drive — they can help you get started
• Set up a food donation bin at your school, church, or place of business
• Bring your family or child’s scout troop to Renewal Food Bank to volunteer
• Head up a food drive at your child’s school
• Bring weekly food collections from local business partners to the food bank
• Deliver food to housebound individuals
• Help pay the monthly bills with a monetary donation to Renewal Food Bank
Together we can build a strong community and care for the most vulnerable members of our Eastside community.

Serving Everyone with Respect

Every person walking into Renewal Food Bank has a story. No matter what first brings them to the food bank, what matters most is how they are first received. Making clients feel welcomed and respected goes a long way in easing their sensitivity entering into a food bank. Since 1998, Renewal has been building relationships with hungry families and the dedicated volunteers who donate time and resources to serve them.  Authentic caring relationships make Renewal Food Bank possible.  In the past year, we have continued to build relationships with clients and the dedicated volunteers who give their time to serve them.
Pat is one of Renewal Food Bank’s valued volunteers, working behind the scenes, sorting and bagging bulk food items. Pat says this support work is a great fit for her and uses her strengths. She describes volunteering with Renewal as “the most worthwhile thing” she has done. Pat’s favorite part about volunteering is “watching people come in to receive food assistance with no questions asked.” She says Renewal is set apart by how all people are served and none are turned away. When asked what she would say to someone considering volunteering at Renewal, Pat replied, “it would be very good to experience others getting their needs met without questions asked.” Pat encourages others to become involved.

Since 2013, James has been a member of Renewal Food Bank’s Board of Directors. He often takes the lead in Renewal Food Bank’s technical tasks, like managing the client database or changing burned out light bulbs. He began in 2008 to fulfill his community service desire and fell in love with Renewal’s sincerity and simplicity. He appreciates Renewal’s efficiency turning financial, food and time donations into direct support for the needy. James shares that he was honored to join the team when the director asked for his assistance in the work of this organization. As a teen, there were times when James was homeless. He keenly recalls how difficult it was to admit being out of control and needing assistance. He gets so much satisfaction from helping Renewal Food Bank feel welcoming to its clients. When asked why he volunteers he says, “because I’m selfish, and really like feeling I’m helping make the world just a bit better.”

Most often, we do not know the outcome of our work. While we have clients we see on a weekly basis, many families and individuals come and go. Our hope is to be a stepping stone for families who need temporary assistance on their life journey. We are honored to be able to play a part in these families’ lives in their time of need. With each client who walks through our door, we strive to live out our mission to feed the hungry in a caring environment with dignity and respect.

Renewal Food Bank, Sharing Dignity and Respect

default-logoby Rich Bowen, Director

What I’ve learned after seventeen years as the director of the Renewal Food Bank is that every family that comes to us has a story. No matter what circumstances first bring them here, what I have found to be most important is how they are first received. Making them feel welcomed and respected will go a long way in easing the stress and often the humiliation they feel in having to enter a food bank. I want to share two of those stories of families that we have served.

Maria first came to the food bank around 2011. She had heard about us from her sister who was also a client of Renewal. She would come regularly every week, and always by herself. She is married and has two children. She was always appreciative for the food she received, and would thank us each week. We came to learn from Maria that her husband was an auto mechanic who had been out of work for some time. He would get part-time work off and on but nothing full time that would cover the family’s needs. Maria shared with us that her husband was opposed to her using a food bank. She said he was too proud to have his family come to a food bank. For the welfare of her family she decided they needed the help we offered. Maria is one of the few stories for which we are allowed to witness an end to our ministry to her family. In the spring of last year, her husband got a full time job as a mechanic! Maria has not needed the assistance of Renewal since last year.

My second story is about Anna. Anna came to the United States in the early 1990’s. She and her husband emigrated from Russia. At the time of their arrival to the US, both Anna and her husband were in their early sixties. They had emigrated here because they had two adult children who lived in the Seattle area. They moved into a government-subsidized apartment in Bellevue. Their total income was about $1,000 per month! They began using the food bank soon after we opened in 1998. The food they received from us was vital. It helped supplement what food they could afford to purchase. Anna’s husband passed away about eight years ago. She still lives in the same small apartment and now nearly eighty years old, she still drives to our food bank every week.

With the great majority of our clients we never know the outcome of our work. Many families come and go. Those we no longer see, we can only hope their situation has improved and that is why we no longer see them. All we can do is minister to them by not only meeting their physical need for food but try and meet their emotional need of being treated with dignity and respect each time they come through our doors.