PORT ANGELES — Three Port Angeles agencies are working together to fill a gap in homeless services by providing free lunches this summer at Jesse Webster Park.
More than 20 people were gathered at noon Friday when Jaymie Doane, Peninsula Behavioral Health case manager, arrived with three coolers packed with sack lunches.
The food was donated by the Port Angeles Food Bank, prepared at a PBH kitchen and delivered to the wooded park in a food security program coordinated by PBH and Washington State University Clallam County Extension.
“The food is great,” said John, who asked to be identified by first name while eating a tuna sandwich.
“The people are fantastic, and we really appreciate it.”
The Port Angeles Salvation Army provides free lunches to the homeless Mondays through Thursdays.
The charitable organization does not provide the lunches Fridays because the small staff is busy catching up on administrative tasks.
“They are a staff of four, and they’re very overworked doing what they do for our community,” said Benji Astrachan, community food project coordinator for the Clallam County WSU Extension office.
To help address the need, Astrachan worked with Peninsula Behavioral Health Development Coordinator Rebekah Miller and Port Angeles Food Bank Director Emily Dexter to launch the program about two months ago, he said.
PBH Peer Support Specialist Alan Austin said the turnout has been solid.
“There’s times that we’ve made, like, 80 lunches and handed them out in less than an hour,” Austin said.
The Friday lunches will continue until late September, when Salvation Army is expected to resume the service, Astrachan said.
“At that point, I imagine we’ll stop the lunches, but there’s always a need in the community for meals,” Astrachan said.
“Most evenings of the week, there is not a community dinner available.”
Rod Alger, who was enjoying lunch with his service dog, Mini, said some local churches offer meals on Saturdays and Sundays.
“There’s a huge need in the community for more community dinners, and things on the weekends as well,” Astrachan said.
Astrachan said Clallam County is the fourth most food insecure county in the state for adults and the second most food insecure county for children.
“One in four children is considered food insecure in Clallam County,” Astrachan said.
Doane said the Friday lunch program has been a successful partnership.
“We couldn’t have done it without the Extension agency being part of it, or the Food Bank,” Doane said.
“It was really nice to see the community come together with: ‘There’s a need. How do we fill it?’ ”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].