Officials from local nonprofit organization Washington Gorge Action Programs disclosed last Thursday a big increase in the need for their food banks in recent weeks, saying now they are expecting demand to continue to rise as more people across Klickitat County experience effects from the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

“Last week, roughly half of the clients served were new to us or people who hadn’t been in for several years,” Executive Director Leslie Naramore wrote in a press release.

Naramore also announced in the press release that the organization received emergency funds to address the COVID-19 situation, including funding from the Community Foundation of Southwest Washington, the Southwest Washington Accountable Community of Health (SWACH), Insitu, Rotary Club of White Salmon-Bingen, and an anonymous gift of $10,000.

 “We know that we’re just at the beginning of a situation that is only going to worsen and we’re grateful to be here to help and grateful to our community for all of their support,” Naramore wrote.

Naramore said the funds will allow WAGAP to address the needs of the community on a wider scale. Because discretionary funds are more flexible, Naramore said, the organization can still help those who may not have been eligible for assistance, which is based on prior income.

The donations will also allow the organization to increase their supply in food and give staff additional hours to meet the demand, Naramore wrote in an email.

While food assistance is in demand, Naramore wrote that the organization is not limiting rations.

“At this point we aren’t limiting but if we can’t source food we may have (restrictions on rations). This is why I’m really encouraging people to think ahead to gardening and plant more. We’ve got to create local sustainability in our area,” Naramore said.

Concerns over supply are being echoed statewide. A March 27 report on agricultural and natural resources from the lens of COVID-19 situation produced by the Unified Command of Washington state’s Emergency Operations Center — and later revealed by The Guardian’s Jason Wilson — warns that “food banks expect a significant gap in the food supply across the whole system by mid-April (April 10-20).”

Officials wrote in the document that nonprofits are reporting “30 percent to 100 percent increases in the number of people served.”

Officials at each level of government have begun implementing measures to quell concerns over food security. Klickitat County Emergency Operations Center, in partnership with WAGAP and multiple volunteer groups, began delivering essential supplies to immunocompromised and quarantined individuals across both the Goldendale and Bingen-White Salmon areas. As well, Gov. Jay Inslee last week deployed units from the Washington National Guard to food banks across the state, namely in King, Pierce, Chelan and Franklin Counties, to support operations. $450 million from the Federal CARES stimulus package will complement efforts by going towards supporting food banks across the country.

The WAGAP food bank is still open to the public, but with social distancing guidelines: “We are asking that clients check in at the door and then wait in their vehicles or outside if they’re on foot. They are brought in one at a time to receive assistance, Naramore said.

“Our Bingen and Stevenson branches are open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon and then 1-3:30 p.m. Our Goldendale branch is open the same hours but Mondays only. Anyone can come in to receive assistance.”

Community members needing assistance are encouraged to call 1-509- 493-2662 or toll free 800-755-1192. Donations to the Community Relief Fund can be made through PayPal at www.wagap.org.

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