Doug Baldwin looks to foster ‘connected community’ with food bank volunteers

Sep 25, 2023, 7:03 AM

food bank volunteers doug baldwin...

People gather at the Northwest Harvest food bank in SODO. (Photo courtesy Northwest Harvest)

(Photo courtesy Northwest Harvest)

With local food banks struggling to find volunteers and gather donations, a Seahawks legend is taking action to recruit people to give back to their communities.

Former Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin told KIRO Newsradio’s Gee and Ursula he’s teamed up with the “Back to Action” campaign and aims to sign up at least 3,000 volunteers by the end of the year.

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Baldwin, along with partners including Northwest Harvest, KING 5, the Seattle Seahawks, Safeway and the Washington Food Coalition, hosted a “Back to Action Day of Service” on Sept. 23, where they officially kicked off their drive to get volunteers.

Baldwin talked about why he thinks it is so important to get people back to helping out food banks and serving the community.

“I got three daughters I’m raising, and I want them to grow up in an environment where the community looks out for them too,” Baldwin said. “When I’m not here anymore, when I’m not there to be right by their side, we need to have a more connected community and the way that we do that we find ways to serve each other. And so my question to you would be, why not?”

Last year, King County passed a measure that would identify resources to help local food banks struggling to meet increased demand.

According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index report, food prices have increased 3.9% since last August, and inflation is up 3.7% from 2021. This is a big reason why people struggling to make ends meet are increasingly utilizing food banks.

“During the pandemic, there was an influx of volunteers, supporting organizations, and just answering the call during that crisis, but since the pandemic, about 80% of volunteers have not returned to the food banks,” Baldwin said. “And, as you can imagine, that has put a great burden on the food banks, as the need for food and the communities that are looking for food has increased. And so there’s been a struggle for the food banks to maintain their ability to meet that need to serve our community.”

Another part of the issue is that Washington State’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits were reduced back to pre-pandemic levels in March.

Some individuals who were receiving $200 a month during the pandemic are now receiving just $17-$28, putting pressure on local food banks to fill the gap. A recent study found SNAP recipients experienced a 21% increase in food insufficiency after the increase ended.

Executive Director of the Auburn Food Bank, Debbie Christian, reported earlier this year that the food bank has experienced a 40% increase in demand since the cutback.

“Wherever you are, whether it’s downtown Seattle, or the south end, or the north end, or somewhere else, Eastern Washington, Southern Washington, or the northern tip of Washington. It doesn’t matter where you go,” Baldwin said. “Really being empathetic and compassionate, and really thinking through a lens of the love of what is it their community needs, and then figuring out a way how to plug into that to solve that problem, or to fill that gap, or to support organizations that are doing that work, and finding a way to contribute.”

More on Doug Baldwin: Former Seahawk Doug Baldwin goes all in on community after retirement

The team at Northwest Harvest, a non-profit in South Seattle, needs more than just people to help package or serve food and says they need people with a variety of skills to help, including translators, IT and software experts, accountants, and painters.

“Even for this campaign, we’re looking for folks who have different skills, not just folks who are just, you know, going to be in line and helping serve food or helping cook food, we’re also talking about people who have background is in taxes,” Baldwin said. “People who, who are engineers, who are carpenters, like we need, we need a varying degree of folks can help and support our food banks.”

You can find more information on the Gee and Ursula Facebook page or the Back to Action sign-up form.

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Doug Baldwin looks to foster ‘connected community’ with food bank volunteers