New income requirements for food assistance in wake of inflation

With the cost of groceries at an all-time high, the federal government has raised the maximum income levels to qualify for assistance.

The Orcas Island Food Bank is ready to meet the demand of more islanders walking through its doors.

“After gathering data in 2020 on wages, cost of living, population diversity and customer needs, it was clear we needed to increase our capacity and diversify our offerings,” said food bank executive director Amanda Sparks. “Our research revealed that more individuals than expected qualify for food assistance and that the need pre-dated the hardship created in 2020 due to the pandemic. Given the data, the federal increase in income requirements is long overdue.”

The guidelines to qualify for the Emergency Food Assistance Program are now as follows: household size of one: $54,360; household size of two: $73,240; household size of three: $92,120; household size of four: $111,000. For each additional family member, add $18,880.

The consumer price index accelerated 8.3% in April, which is more than was estimated and is near the highest level in more than 40 years. The cost of chicken rose 3.4 percent, eggs increased 10.3 percent and cereal went up 2.4 percent. While consumers have seen rising gas and food prices, inflation is also occurring in the housing and auto markets.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, OIFB has been steadily serving the people of Orcas Island, increasing its hours, delivery options and grocery offerings. A corps of dedicated volunteers help patrons pick out produce and proteins, much of it locally grown or raised, and food items that suit customers of all ages, ethnicities and dietary requirements.

On the first visit, customers are asked to register with their name and address and to self-declare that they meet the income qualification. No proof of citizenship, legal residency or a social security number is requested. You can also register online at Those who decline to register will still receive food.

The food bank partners with other island organizations to deliver bags of fresh groceries to customers who are home-bound or unable to come to town. Every Thursday, staff members pack up assorted goods that include fresh vegetables, a protein option, dairy products, pantry staples, kid snacks and more, that are then driven right to your door. To sign up, call 360-376-4445 before 4 p.m. on Wednesdays to get added to the list for the upcoming Thursday delivery.

The food bank is located at 116 Madrona Street in Eastsound, next to the Orcas Island Community Church. It is open Monday from 3 to 6:30 p.m. and Tuesday and Friday from noon to 6:30 p.m. Customers may come twice a week. For more information, visit

“It’s challenging enough to live, work and provide for a family on an island, with limited resources,” Sparks said. “When it comes to what folks will choose to live without, healthy food should never be on that list.”