Food bank seeks federal funds

County hears request, has $700K earmarked area efforts

PORT ANGELES — A Clallam Bay food bank is seeking county approval of federal funds that would allow for the purchase of a former bank and improved food security in the unincorporated community.

Clallam County commissioners Mark Ozias and Bill Peach expressed support Monday for New Hope Food Bank’s proposed use of $275,00o in American Rescue Plan Act funds. Ozias and Peach said they would follow an established process and seek a recommendation from the Peninsula Food Coalition before awarding the COVID-19 pandemic assistance.

Commissioner Randy Johnson was excused Monday.

“I highly recommend proceeding with this,” said Peach, who represents the Clallam Bay/Sekiu area.

The three commissioners are expected to revisit the spending request with a recommendation from the Peninsula Food Coalition next Monday or Aug. 30.

“As you know, I’m a believer in food banks and the impact that they make,” said Ozias, a former Sequim Food Bank director.

“The need there in Clallam Bay is clear, but I do think that it would be better if we’re able to be respectful of the process.”

Ozias said he would invite Clallam County WSU Extension Director Clea Rome, the board’s representative on the Peninsula Food Coalition, to the next discussion on New Hope’s spending request.

Clallam County was awarded $15.02 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for needs related to COVID-19.

Of that, commissioners have committed to spending $700,000 to help local food banks, including $50,000 for New Hope.

“We didn’t really realize until COVID hit just how many people we were not reaching,” New Hope Food Bank Coordinator Alice Langebartel told commissioners Monday.

“It’s just been a real eye-opener for us as a food bank.”

New Hope operates out of a dilapidated modular building about three miles west of Clallam Bay, county officials said.

“It’s not an ideal situation, to say the least,” Chief Financial Officer Mark Lane said in the work session.

Lane said the existing food bank is in “really, really rough shape.”

“They’ve had electrical issues where there’s actually burn marks in the walls,” Lane said.

“They’ve had pest control issues. It’s a building in dire need of major repairs.”

New Hope is seeking $275,000 in ARPA funds to purchase a former Bank of America Building in downtown Clallam Bay and convert the space for food distribution. It had raised about $27,000 for the effort as of Monday, Lane said.

“They placed a contingent offer to purchase the building, contingent upon them successfully securing additional funding to purchase it,” Lane said.

It would cost $195,000 to purchase the building and $80,000 to convert it into a food bank, Lane said.

The proposed remodel would include the addition of a second exit, removal of the bank vault, a new bathroom and shelves for storing food and equipment, county officials said.

“It almost doubles our square footage,” Langebartel said.

Many of those who use the existing food bank do not have reliable transportation, making it difficult for them to access food, county officials said.

Clallam County Fire District No. 5 has provided food from New Hope during check-ins with housebound community members during the pandemic, Langebartel said.

“We have been able to receive a lot more food, a lot more produce, which is wonderful, from our government agencies that we receive food from,” Langebartel added.

Peach said the food bank supports relatives of Clallam Bay Corrections Center inmates.

“A lot of times those people will come into town penniless — I mean literally — requesting any manner of assistance that is possible,” Peach said.

Langebartel said the food bank had “very much appreciated” the produce donated by the Clallam Bay prison garden.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].

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