‘Piggy Parade’ hopes change brings change

A pocketful of change may not seem like much, but for the increasing number of people feeling the effects of a weakening economy, a nickel and dime goes a long way.

A pocketful of change may not seem like much, but for the increasing number of people feeling the effects of a weakening economy, a nickel and dime goes a long way.

As food prices continue to rise a reported 5 percent in the past three months, people here are not immune to the situation.

The Renewal Food Bank, part of Northwest Harvest’s hunger relief network, hopes its “Piggy Parade” can help.

Located in the back parking lot of Bellevue Foresquare Church, the food bank is a project of the World Impact Network, a local non-profit that works to meet the needs of the poor locally and globally to help restore human dignity.

Through the new fundraising campaign, WIN hopes to collect $50,000 worth of loose change by December 2008. Participants will be given a plastic piggy bank to place at their office, home or business. The money raised will go directly towards supplying food and increased storage space for the food bank and in turn, will allow the food bank to continue serving the public in an atmosphere of respect and dignity.

Gabriella Van Breda of WIN has been all over the world, bringing education and skills training into emerging countries. Bringing her humanitarian work into her own community, Van Breda helped launch the Piggy Parade fund raising campaign and hopes local businesses and community members will get on board.

It’s a lot to do a fundraiser in this type of economic climate when you’re asking people for $1,000 - even $100 might be a stretch - but everybody collects change, she explained.

Currently, the food bank consists of trailers that are space-limited, dictating the amount of food storage available. With people lining up outside the door three times a week, the shelves need to be stocked and the necessary food made available.

In addition, more and more people are turning to the food bank for help. It served more than 2,300 people in the month of April.

The Renewal Food Bank is organized to resemble a mini grocery store and offers refrigerated items including meats, fish and dairy as well as fresh produce and can goods. Toiletries also are available.

“We get a lot of immigrants who really like to cook their own food. That’s why we set it up like a grocery store. It provides a little more dignity,” Van Breda explained. “People want to maintain their dignity and respect when they come to a food bank and feel like they can take what they need without just being given a packet and saying this is all you get.”

Depending on the size of the family, the shopper is given a card that shows them how many items they may take off each shelf. The food bank allows the shopper to come in once a week and keeps track of the items and names, but nothing more.

Unlike other food banks that require appointments and documentation, Renewal Food Bank works as part of Northwest Harvest to make the process of getting food easier. It was first established in May 1998.

“We feed such a large immigrant population and many of them are undocumented. We don’t get into the politics and when they arrive with their little kids, I can’t refuse to feed them,” said a teary-eyed Van Breda.

The food bank opens its doors to the public every Monday and Wednesday morning as well as Monday evenings. Additionally, the food bank opens for emergencies outside normal operating hours and on some occasions will make home deliveries if a client is unable to leave home due to illness or other circumstances.

With the increasing number of people needing services and the decrease in food and supplies, Rich Bowen, the community development director, hopes the new fundraising campaign will bring about a tide of change.

“This is the lowest we’ve been in well over a year and a half,” Bowen explained of the stock on the shelves.

Several schools, churches, and businesses have signed on to participate in the fundraiser including the city of Bellevue, which has agreed to put the piggy banks in all of their community centers.

“If only half of all of the businesses in Bellevue participated we’d raise the money in no time,” Van Breda said.

Lindsay Larin can be reached at llarin@reporternewspapers.com or 425-453-4602.