Sunday, July 14, 2024

Hand-to-mouth and day-to-day

Brewster Food Bank feeds the hungry and struggles to stay open


BREWSTER – With two of the biggest holidays of the year, Thanksgiving and Christmas, just around the corner, the Brewster Food Bank at 301 South Fourth Street is feeling the financial pinch as it continues to serve nearly 100 people every Thursday morning from its facility.

As the only food pantry left in the Pateros-Brewster-Bridgeport area, the Brewster Food Bank serves from 85 to 120 people a week. And each of those served represents four people on the average. Last Thursday the food bank had 95 recipients, according to Neal McKee. McKee assumed day-to-day responsibilities at the facility after long-time director Wynn Webster passed away on New Year’s Day this year.

Tuesday, Nov. 20, two days before Thanksgiving will be another big day when the Brewster Food Bank distributes turkeys donated by the Brewster Kiwanis.

While the Brewster facility gets its food through regular pickups at the Okanogan County Community Action Council (OCCAC), funds to operate from month to month depend upon the generosity of private donors. And there is often too much month at the end of the money.

As of Monday, Oct. 29, the pantry’s bank account had less than $150 to pay this month’s estimated $600 operating costs.

While food donations are always appreciated, “What we are looking for are money donations to keep it open,” McKee said.

McKee said the primary expenses are electricity, water, and mileage costs reimbursed at $.50 a mile for those who make deliveries to the house-bound.
“Several of us volunteer to deliver food,” said McKee. “I deliver food to nine.”

OCCAC provides food to the Brewster Food Bank and seven others in the county at Okanogan, Omak, Twisp/Methow, Oroville, Tonasket, Conconully, and Wauconda.

The only other food bank in the Quad city area was housed in the Foursquare Church on Foster Avenue in Bridgeport until that pantry lost its space on short notice a year ago last September. After 25 years of serving some 200 people twice a month the Bridgeport bank had to disperse its equipment when it was unable to find another spot that could house the service and cover its insurance costs.

Once freezers and equipment are gone and volunteers move on to other activities, it’s hard to reopen and restore what went before. More than a year after the Bridgeport Food Bank closed shop there are no plans on the books as of this writing to resuscitate it.

The Brewster Food Bank got its start in the basement of the St. James Episcopal Church in the 1980s. When the Episcopal Church closed in Brewster, Catholic Charities took on the food bank and installed it in a remodeled garage on church property where it remains today.

McKee said the food bank works several options to raise funds. Volunteers distribute donation jars, hand-deliver solicitation letters to businesses, and post on Facebook.

“We usually have a fundraiser twice a year,” McKee added.

Right now, a volunteer is trying to repair a laptop computer to help with paperwork and data storage. The food bank is also looking for an experienced grant writer to see if that avenue could generate some funding. In the meantime, citizens and businesses are the go-to parties to keep the lights on and the water running.

Parties interested in donating to the Brewster Food Bank can contact McKee by phone at (509) 322-1009, or email


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