Issaquah Sammamish Food Project reaches million-dollar milestone

Program allows residents to donate to the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank from their front door.

In June, the Issaquah Sammamish Food Project (ISFP) is targeted to surpass $1 million worth of food and personal care donations to the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank alongside celebrating its five-year anniversary.

The program, also referred to as the “green bag project,” allows residents to donate to the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank from their front door.

The Food Project model began 15 years ago in Ashland, Oregon, and has since been used to create 50 Food Project programs in the United States.

In 2018, a recently retired Issaquah couple, Jim and Chris Berry, took notice of the Food Project program in Thurston County and decided to replicate the model in Issaquah.

“When I found out that the average donor puts a bag on their front porch, I said, ‘Who wouldn’t want to do this?’” Jim said.

The program involves two key groups: neighborhood coordinators and donors. Neighborhood coordinators, who allocate around 10 hours a year to Food Project duties, sign up and provide a green canvas bag to interested neighbors who become donors.

“It is really simple. Six of those [hours] are on collection day, and then we ask them to connect with their donors three times every two months by either text or email,” he said.

A list of products — which changes periodicallyis distributed to the donors by the neighborhood coordinator and posted on the ISFP website.

“We provide ISFP with a ‘wish list’ of items for their drives, allowing us to target specific needs. This helps us provide nutritious options to our shoppers while also responding to their requests for the food items that work best for their families,” said Kim Skok, the operations manager at Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank.

On the second Saturday of every other month, donors put the green bag outside their door. The neighborhood coordinator then gathers the bags and leaves behind an empty bag for the following collection.

Jim, who has been community service-oriented since high school, said the Food Project model is the easiest method he’s encountered to make an impact.

“For 90% of the people involved in the food project, it is putting a bag on your front porch six times a year, and somebody will pick it up and get into the food bank,” he said.

Every 10 donors help provide up to 100 meals every collection and 600 meals a year, according to the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank.

The ISFP, which received around 800 pounds of food and personal care items during its first collection, now collects around 15,000 pounds every two months. Skok said in an email that since 2019, ISFP has donated 203,646 pounds of non-perishable food to the food bank.

Jim mentioned over a year ago 15,000 pounds would fully supply the food bank’s food and personal care needs every two months. However, due to increased needs, the program now covers about 80%.

“We get a lot of people who say, ‘Why do we even have a food bank in Issaquah? Why do you need to collect food for it? We live in an affluent community,’” Jim said. “Well, 9%, 10% of the kids in Issaquah School District are on free or reduced lunch.”

Over the past three years, the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunches in the Issaquah School District has risen steadily from 9.2% in the 2021-2022 school year to 12.1% in the current 2023-2024 school year, according to data from the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“Those families [in need] are here,” Jim said. “You may not see them because you live in a community like we do, but they’re there.”

If residents want to know more or are interested in becoming a neighbor coordinator, donor or volunteer, go to the ISFP website.

The upcoming collection day is set for June 8. The following dates in 2024 include Aug. 10, Oct. 12 and Dec 14.

To find out more about the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank and other ways to support and donate, go to the food bank’s website.

Jim Berry (left) and Chris Berry (right) started the Issaquah Sammamish Food Project in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Jim Berry)

Jim Berry (left) and Chris Berry (right) started the Issaquah Sammamish Food Project in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Jim Berry)