We have no shortage of gut-wrenching news right now, it’s incredibly hard to take it all in. This morning my attention was keenly focused on a cover story in the Seattle Times about increase in demand at area food banks (a story playing out widely, not just here). The reality of this situation is heartbreaking on many levels, including the degree of food insecurity in my area and the people making first-time visits due to layers of challenging circumstances they’re facing. How many layers away might I be, too?

Most striking for me was how very much the article echoed those I read from decades past, while doing research about King County food banks recently for a HistoryLink project. Increased demand is rarely due to just one thing: not just joblessness, not just the economy, not just change in government programs. Any single element improving doesn’t make the demand go away, nor necessarily go down all that much.

Before working on that essay, I had very little real understanding of the breadth of extraordinary value that food banks contribute to their communities. The food they provide is a starting point, most also provide services and resources that help increase overall stability in people’s lives. Food banks’ resilience, resourcefulness and capacity to problem-solve seem to know no bounds. They couldn’t just close up shop when Covid hit, within days they shifted gears however necessary to continue distributing food.

It’s distressing that food banks rarely get a break, especially lately, challenges of all kinds cropping up with relative frequency. I wish there was more I could do. I know we all feel that incredible weight regarding a slew of problems these days. For now, showing up at my neighborhood food bank to help with distribution is one small thing. And I’m grateful for the opportunity it affords me to see the outstanding work of food banks in action.