Feeding Food Banks

Food banks seek help as inflation soars

By Rob Smith


September 14, 2022

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 issue of Seattle Magazine.

As a political junkie closely attuned to current events, Rainier Valley Food Bank CEO Gloria Hatcher-Mays could see it coming.

When the pandemic began to abate and inflation took hold, she knew that steep spikes in food costs would have a “long-lasting” effect on those who depended on the food bank for basic necessities. Grocery prices rose 11.9% in May, according to Consumer Price Index data, the largest monthly hike since April 1979.

When the food bank this spring held a “soft” reopening of a return to in-person shopping, 180 people showed up. The food bank had invited only 20 for the ceremonial event.

“Food banks are going to be in a long-haul recovery mode post-pandemic,” Hatcher-Mays says. “It’s not going to be over for quite some time.”

Fortunately, Rainier Valley Food Bank is in position to meet that increased demand. Last summer, Hatcher-Mays spearheaded the acquisition of funeral home Bonney Watson’s former Southwest Mortuary Property on Rainier Avenue South to serve as new headquarters. The 8,000-square-foot building has about seven times more space than the food bank’s previous home.

Hatcher-Mays expects the food bank – the region’s busiest, serving an estimated 25% of all individuals seeking food assistance in Seattle – to serve at least 600 customers every day the organization is open for in-person shopping.

Though Rainier Valley, like many food banks, used delivery services during the pandemic, most work best for in-person shopping – at least for now.

“Truly, the goal for food bank providers is to have the experience not be any different than people who shop for groceries at Safeway or Amazon,” she says. “We know we’re not there yet.”

Donations are critical. To find a food bank in Washington state visit: www.foodbanks.net/state/wa.html

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