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Miracle Food Network Volunteer Driver Amanda prepares to deliver food (April 13, 2020). Photo: Alex Bodi Hallett of Sattva Photo

Ferndale services & schools step up food distribution during COVID-19 crisis

Governor Jay Inslee’s “stay home, stay safe” order to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 disease has left many individuals and families struggling to make ends meet due to being laid-off while their employers’ businesses, or their own businesses, have had to close. This has put an extra load on community services including the Ferndale Food Bank and Ferndale-based Miracle Food Network while requiring the Ferndale School District to develop a new food distribution system.

Miracle Food Network

In 2016, Miracle Food Network (MFN) was incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit in Washington state. Since then it’s unique model of intercepting food that would otherwise go to waste has been serving local people in need. Co-founder Doug Robertson said MFN currently operates from Sterling Drive Church in Bellingham and Good News Fellowship in Ferndale.

Volunteers currently collect surplus “ready-to-eat” food from local commercial kitchens, including restaurants, caterers and delis, and distribute it to those in need through volunteers and groups close to where the underserved live. According to Robertson, “This model started in the spring of 2018 and has burgeoned since the COVID pandemic of 2020.”

Miracle Food Network produce awaits distribution (April 13, 2020). Photo: Alex Bodi Hallett of Sattva Photo
Miracle Food Network produce awaits distribution (April 13, 2020). Photo: Alex Bodi Hallett of Sattva Photo

Pre-COVID-19, MFN ran 7-days-per-week collecting and distributing over 55,000 pounds in 2019. During the month of March 2020, MFN processed over 55,000 pounds – the equivalent of last year’s distribution in a single month according to Robertson.

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Robertson says they are in need of more volunteers to support this need.

MFN continues to seek ways to amplify our working model. We need more food and more passionate people with helping hearts. That drives MFN. Our main areas of need are people to pick up food from the donors in the morning, people to help process the food in the kitchen for distribution, and people to help distribute the food to hose in need in our community!

Anyone interested in volunteering can provide contact information to MFN via email to info@miraclefoodnetwork.org.

Ferndale Food Bank

Ferndale Food Bank Executive Director Suzanne Nevan said there have been many changes over the past month. Most notably, at-risk volunteers have had to stay home, but then new volunteers and suppliers have been stepping up.

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Here in Ferndale, we have been fortunate as the need for volunteers has increased so has the response from teachers, faith communities, et al. We have not been short during any distributions in the past 5 weeks. And this after losing a third of the regular volunteers due to COVID-19 concerns.

Ferndale Food Bank Executive Director Suzanne Nevan

The Food Bank has seen an increase in home distributions over the past month. “Last week we had 35, this week there will be 50,” Nevan said. She pointed out that several are for mixed-generational families with at-risk members. “They cannot afford to risk having family members go shopping for them because they could unintentionally bring the virus back into the home.”

Anyone interested in providing financial support and making food donations are asked to click here for details on how to accomplish those things.

Nevan said an idea for donating is to hold a neighborhood food drive where neighbors can drop off donations at a collection point or someone can drive through the neighborhood picking up donations. Nevan recommends first calling the Food Bank to find out what they are in need of before holding such a food drive.

Ferndale Food Bank Executive Director Suzanne Nevan checks over a batch of home distribution items as they are loaded into a delivery van (April 17, 2020). Photo: My Ferndale News
Ferndale Food Bank Executive Director Suzanne Nevan checks over a batch of home distribution items as they are loaded into a delivery van (April 17, 2020). Photo: My Ferndale News

Ferndale School District

When the governor issued the order in mid-March to close school buildings, there were several mandates placed on state school districts 1 of which was to continue providing nutritional services.

After going through the complicated process of developing a plan, grab-and-go meal distribution began March 20th and each Monday, Wednesday and Friday thereafter from 11am to 1pm at various school locations. The plan was expanded to include delivering meals to families who need them but may not be able to get to one of the distribution sites on the days and times offered. As of March 31st, district officials said they were providing meals at 36 locations around the district and had already provided over 12,000 meals.

Ferndale School District staff distribute meals at Ferndale High School during "grab and go" distribution while school buildings are closed to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 disease (April 17, 2020). Photo: My Ferndale News
Ferndale School District staff distribute meals at Ferndale High School during “grab and go” distribution while school buildings are closed to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 disease (April 17, 2020). Photo: My Ferndale News

In addition to providing meals, school materials, including books and other printed materials are also being made available at pickup points and via delivery.

During an April 2nd special School Board meeting, Executive Director for Student Services Paul Douglas told the board that, while they were distributing so many meals, any not distributed were being provided to the Ferndale Food Bank and Miracle Food Network so nothing would go to waste.

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