“I Don’t Come to the Food Bank Because…”

by Rick Rhoads

Orcas Island Food Bank

Many of our friends and neighbors are forced to postpone car and house repairs, go without dental or medical care, fill up on relatively inexpensive but unhealthy foods, and/or fall behind on rent or utility bills. They struggle to make ends meet, often despite working one or more jobs. Some improve their household economies by shopping at the Food Bank — an average of 941 households a month in 2022. Others who could benefit, however, don’t. These are the reasons we most commonly hear for not coming to the Food Bank: “I have a job, so I probably don’t qualify.” “I’m not a U.S. citizen.” “I can’t deal with any more paperwork.” “I don’t want to take food away from people who need it more than I do.” “I don’t eat that great, but I get by.”

Let’s take these reasons one at a time.

“I have a job, so I probably don’t qualify.”

Here are The Emergency Food Assistance Program current income guidelines for Washington State. Household size Annual income

1 $54,360

2 $73,240

3 $92,120

4 $111,000

For each additional household member, add $18,880.

To be eligible to receive food from TEFAP, customers need to self-declare that they meet the TEFAP income limits and reside in Washington State. As for the majority of our food, which is not provided by TEFAP, the Orcas Island Food Bank exists as a service to the community and the only qualification for receiving food is that customers have a need for food assistance based on their own judgment. Customers do not need to provide Social Security numbers, identification, or proof of citizenship, immigration status, household size, or income.

“I’m not a US citizen.”

Doesn’t matter. All Orcas Island residents are welcome.

“I can’t deal with any more paperwork.”

We hear you! We do not require paperwork from our customers. Your verbal registration and verbal updates as your situation changes are all that is needed on your side to help us continue to stock our shelves appropriately.

“I don’t want to take food away from people who need it more than I do.”

Thank you for thinking of others. If you don’t need bread this week, for example, don’t take it. To minimize waste, we encourage folks to take only what they need. But please let us worry about inventory levels. By accessing food, you help the county and state understand the true need for support. Please don’t hide your nutrition needs — your health matters! We encourage you to focus on eating healthy; we will take care of the rest.

“I don’t eat that great, but I get by.”

Amanda Sparks, the Food Bank’s executive director, responds: “Eating healthy versus eating to fill your stomach are different things. Adequate nutrition supports good mental and physical health; eating poorly to quench hunger can contribute to serious, lasting health problems, including obesity, tooth decay, high blood pressure, and diabetes, and can increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, and cancer. Even in the short term, poor nutrition can increase stress and fatigue and decrease our capacity to work and learn. If the food you can afford fits into the category of eating poorly to fill your stomach, please consider visiting the Food Bank. Eating poorly is not healthy or cost-effective long-term. I know; I’ve been there.”

If you could benefit from the food bank, please stop by. You’ll get a warm welcome. If you know someone who might benefit, please show them this article. Thanks.

Food bank information

Hours of food distribution: Monday 3 to 6:30 p.m., Tuesday and Friday, noon to 6:30 p.m.


(360) 376-4445

116 Madrona Street (PO Box 424), Eastsound, WA 98245

OIFB is an equal opportunity provider and employer.