The FISH Food Bank board is considering reductions to the Bishoff Food Bank’s operating hours. The proposed cuts would reduce the Key Peninsula branch’s hours of operation from 12 a day to six on most days, and they would eliminate Albertsons deliveries.
The reductions are scheduled to take effect Aug. 1, pending a final decision. FISH originally planned to cut operations to three days per week but has decided to keep it at six.
Beth Elliott, executive director of FISH Food Banks of Pierce County, said the hourly reductions are necessary.
“FISH just wants to reduce,” Elliot said. “They’re not sustainable, the hours are too long. It’s 8 (a.m.) to 8 (p.m.).”
Kimberly Miller, a volunteer at the Key Peninsula location, asked the board last Thursday to reconsider the proposed changes. She detailed unique challenges for the peninsula area.
“We are fearful of what this will do to our community,” Miller said. “We have no bus service and no taxi service out on the peninsula. We have a lot of homeless and working poor that never know when they will be able to get work and what those work hours will be. They depend on us to feed their families.”
Elliott insisted she understands those concerns, but other factors are at play.
“We’ve been getting complaints from community members,” Elliott said. “Some of the businesses are concerned. There’s people wandering in at all hours of the day, and no real supervision going on.”
Some business owners reportedly have been suspicious of drug activity at the food bank, and they’re concerned about the effects loitering has on their businesses, Elliott said.
Miller took exception to the complaints, claiming those business owners don’t know about the food bank operations.
“Yeah, we’re dealing — dealing food to hungry people,” Miller said.
All of the other FISH locations in Pierce County have shorter operating hours, so the proposed cuts would be an attempt at greater uniformity, Elliott said.
“Right now, we’re looking at six days a week, from 2 to 8 (p.m.),” Elliott said. “That’s more in line with what we’re thinking of. We realize there are extenuating needs in Key Peninsula. It’s really difficult for people who work.”
Miller said some of their customers have fluctuating work schedules and rely on the longer hours of operation.
“We have a young lady who works at our local grocery store, making $12 per hour,” Miller said. “Her hours at the grocery store change weekly and very dramatically. Without our extended hours, her three young boys would be seriously deprived of wholesome fresh foods.”
Miller argued that people who don’t live in the community should not be mandating operating hours.
“It seems to all of us that there are too many people trying to make uninformed decisions about a community they don’t live in and simply can’t understand,” Miller said. “Those from FISH who have visited our food bank have been on site for, at most, a couple hours at any given time. If you were to sit out here with us from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for six days, you would understand the uniqueness of living out on rural Key Peninsula.”
FISH is expected to a make a decision regarding the proposed cuts in the next couple of days.