Tenino Food Bank Facing Donation Shortage, Supply Chain Issues


As inflation continues to rise, not only are citizens feeling the burn in their pocketbooks, but outreach organizations such as Tenino Food Bank Plus are seeing declines in donations.

State Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, visited the food bank in Tenino on Monday to tour the building and listen to the concerns of volunteers.

“They’re doing such amazing work up there, not only helping feed veterans and clothe veterans, they have a whole ‘veterans closet’ dedicated to veterans. They’ve also reached out to a lot of senior centers and one other thing they do is reach out to students,” Abbarno said.

He said it’s important to reach out to students as many come from low income families and still need meals over the holiday and summer breaks.

“We go through our daily lives sometimes and forget, and school is sometimes the only good, nutritious meal these kids get,” Abbarno said.

He added the food bank is currently facing supply chain issues and a shortage of cooked, canned proteins. Abbarno emphasized the need for quality, nutritious food not only for kids, but for seniors as well.

Abbarno said the food bank is piloting a program where special education students who graduate from Tenino High School can work 15 hours a week at the food bank to learn job skills and get paid.

Tenino Food Bank Plus Executive Director Jody Stoltz  broke down the issues the food bank is facing in more detail. In her estimation, donations have dropped by more than half of their usual rate. Inflation is playing a huge role, she said.

“In the past, we would have to empty our (donation) barrels at least once a week, if not twice a week. Now it’s every other week that we’ll empty the barrels,” Stoltz said.

Donations aren’t the only source of food Tenino Food Bank Plus utilizes, but even the other sources are having issues.

There are funding issues for county programs, such as the Thurston County Economic Development Council’s Farm-to-Family program, which is about to run out of grant funding and end, according to Stoltz.

Another supplier out of Seattle, Food Lifeline, is also facing stocking issues, and the catalog of available food that Stoltz used to receive has gone from five pages long to just a single page.

She attributed this to supply chain shortages.

“It’s because they can’t get it either. It’s not that (food) is not available just to be not available. It’s not available because there isn’t any,” Stoltz said. 

She said many common staple foods the food bank usually gets — such as canned tomatoes and pasta — have virtually disappeared. That’s a big issue, she said, especially for seniors who need nutritious food.

“These seniors are not getting the nutrients they need because they’re spending more on gas and medicine and can’t afford food. One of the problems with the seniors is they will keep their mouths shut, so they suffer more because they will not advocate for themselves in the way of food,” Stoltz said.

She said many households coming to the food bank now are multigenerational because so many seniors are having to move back in with families as they can’t afford to live on their own anymore.

“There’s a few seniors that live here in Tenino in fifth-wheels and trailers in a RV park here, and they just got a 12% increase in their rent,” Stoltz said.

She said donations of items high in protein have declined. The food bank has been having issues with people dropping off raw proteins and other perishable items in the donation barrels, which lack refrigeration.

“During the hottest part of the summer, I wound up having to clean up a 10-pound package of ground beef that exploded inside our donation barrel,” Stoltz said.

She’s had to stop people from putting raw chicken, milk, cheese and yogurt in the barrel as well.

“I don’t know what these people are thinking,” she said. “I just do not understand this.”

With winter rapidly approaching and the food bank facing shortages, Stoltz said the donation warehouse is currently only about 30% full.

Food shortages aren’t the only issue facing the food bank as temperatures begin to drop.

“We’re not getting any of the winter stuff that we’ve gotten in the past, so we’re kind of out just seeing what we can do,” Stoltz said.

As inflation keeps rising, Stoltz fears for seniors in the area and for a lot of the families she serves.

“We’re seeing a lot of working poor folks. They’re trying to do the right thing and it’s just not working. The seniors are in a completely different category because they simply can’t work. These 70 and 80 year olds can’t go back to work,” Stoltz said.

Tenino Food Bank Plus is still accepting donations and looking for cooked, canned proteins, canned vegetables and any other food they can get. Stoltz emphasized the desire for more nutritious food donations.

“The kids love Top Ramen and their macaroni and cheese. We’ve all lived on it. But it’s not a thing to really be living on it, especially if you’re a senior. Seniors should not be living on foods like that at all,” Stoltz said.

According to Stoltz, the food bank itself is set to keep running as far as paying utilities and gas for their truck, they just urgently need food to distribute. The drop box for donations is still at the food bank; however, the food bank is accepting financial donations, too. Monetary donations can be made via PayPal to tcsct9o@scattercreek.com.

For more information on other ways to donate or get involved with the food bank, email Stoltz at jody@teninocsc.org.

The food bank is located at 224 Sussex Ave E., Tenino.

The food bank hours are 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday and Thursday, drive up only. Senior shut in delivery is every Tuesday for Tenino and Thursday for Bucoda.

Learn more at https://teninocsc.org/.