Six years ago, Shari Pace and Candy White gathered fellow Peninsula School District bus drivers and started the “Stuff the Bus” food drive. It was a time when the economy was on the downturn and the drivers wanted to help their kids and their community.
“The bus drivers see the kids every day,” Jan Coen, of the Gig Harbor Fish Food Bank, said. “So they know what’s going on.”
On Nov. 2, drivers will gather from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Gig Harbor North Albertson’s to collect food for both the Gig Harbor Fish Food Bank and the Key Peninsula Community Food Bank. Shopping carts are decorated like busses and food is stored in a school bus in the parking lot, White said in a press release.
“It brings in desperately needed food for our community,” Brett Higgins, of the Key Peninsula Community Food Bank, said.
The event collects non-perishable food and household items such as soaps, cleaners and shampoo. Cash donations are also accepted.
Pace and White are both drivers in the district. The event tries to bring about 30 drivers, or half the driving force, Pace said.
“Nobody could do it without the help of all the drivers who support it,” she said.
Pace is a life-long Peninsula School District member. She’s a graduate of Gig Harbor High School and has driven a bus for 19 years.
“I am blessed. I love my job,” she said.
Jan Coen said that in the past the shelves of the food bank have always been full, but an increase in clients and a decrease in donations hits hard.
“Now we have nothing,” she said. The Gig Harbor Fish Food Bank provides basic meal items such as peanut butter, jam and canned and boxed goods. Between $8,000 to $10,000 a month is used to purchase perishable items such as eggs, meat and milk. Cash donations help offset that operating cost. Soup is a needed item, as well as canned fruits and vegetables, Jan Coen said.
In the last three months, the Key Peninsula Community Food Bank has spent roughly $5,000 on canned food to keep shelves stocked, Higgins said. On average, the food bank sends out 450 family food baskets a month. With the average family size of three people, Higgins said, the baskets feed about 1,350 people. Food Bank workers go around to local grocery stores about four times a week to collect donations including produce.
The Gig Harbor Fish Food Bank is hoping this season a covered van will be donated to help with pick ups in bad weather. Right now, volunteers use open trucks, Ron Coen, board member, said.
The influx of food drives, like Stuff the Bus, in November and December help food banks get through the holidays, Higgins said. Pace is excited for another year of bussing in donations.
“Literally, we stuff the bus,” she said. “It’s amazing. Every seat is full.”
Reporter Karen Miller can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org