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August 3, 2009 at 7:25 AM

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Hopelink opens new food bank designed like a grocery store

Posted by Kristi Heim

Hopelink will open the doors to a new food bank today that uses the model of a grocery store to let people make their own choices and shop at their convenience.

Where traditional food banks hand out food items in a line at a set time and date, Hopelink's new Kirkland center mirrors a grocery store where people can choose their own canned goods, baked goods, produce, meat and dairy items from cases and shelves. The store has both daytime and evening hours.

hopelink food bank.jpg

To use the food bank, people have to first qualify and register at Hopelink, where they are matched with services aimed to help them move toward self-sufficiency. The grocery store uses a point system to provide people with a food budget based on family size.

Since many of Hopelink's clients have jobs and children in school, a food bank offering flexible hours is an advantage. Food banks all over the region have seen a surge in demand during the economic downturn.

The supermarket-style model was first developed by the University District Food Bank (a separate non-profit from Food Lifeline) in 2007. Food Lifeline then recognized University District Food Bank with an award a year later for exemplary approaches to ending hunger.

In addition to food, the new Hopelink center will offer a one-stop-shop for other services, including adult education, emergency financial assistance, a jobs program and help for families with children.

Hopelink's new center replaces two of its other centers in Kirkland and Bothell and is located at 11011 120th Avenue N.E. in the Totem Lake area. For more information call 425-889-7880.

Update: Just learned about AmpleHarvest, a nationwide effort to link local food pantries with surplus produce from neighborhood gardens. It invites local pantries to list themselves and gardeners to visit the site, and "reach into their backyard instead of their back pocket."

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