Bellingham Food Bank Newsletter
Winter 2016
In This Issue
In their own words

What are you looking forward to in 2016?
"Finishing my classes and graduating from WWU!"

"Hopefully a healthier year than the last one."

"We're excited about the birth of our daughter in April."

Sher Vadinska
Revolutions of the Heart

Sher is known as a gifted storyteller and performer--via her work as a singer, songwriter, musician and author. Perhaps you've heard her performing at places like the Wild Buffalo or The Green Frog. Or at other venues where she's opened for artists such as It's a Beautiful Day and Brandi Carlile. Or you have one of her CDs. Some of us have come to know her through her longtime work at Bellingham Food Bank.

An East Coast gal, music has always been Sher's passion. But besides playing music, she's also had to be a Jane-of-all-trades working as a bike courier, in construction and landscaping, and also as a stonemason. In 2003 Sher says she found herself at a low point, and decided she wanted a new start. She looked at a map, packed up her car with her bike, guitars and dog and headed west to Bellingham.

While still fairly new to the area, Sher decided she "needed to do something for others." She's been volunteering at the food bank ever since. "The reality of people going hungry blows my mind, as it just doesn't have to happen. I could spend my energy being angry, but the most positive thing I found I can do is get in and help."

Sher appreciates that the food bank "does so much more than hand out cans of food." She's seen a lot of fresh food during her 10-plus years as a volunteer. And by our estimate she's personally sorted more than 100,000 pounds of produce that's been rescued from local grocery stores. Sher also really values BFB's agricultural programs that provide tons of fresh locally-grown produce, as well as education on how folks can grow their own good food.

Although people often think of Sher as "very outgoing," she says she requires a lot of alone time--for meditation and to get into the woods and away on her bike. An avid cyclist, Sher has been on several long-distance bike tours. In 2011 she spent three months cycling 2,000 miles from Bellingham through the Cascades to southern Oregon and back. She's since published a book on her trek titled Snakeskins and Signposts.

Thank you Sher for all of your talents and time you share with our community!

Bellingham Food Bank
TTY 711 or 800-833-6388

1824 Ellis Street
Bellingham, WA 98225

Food For Thought
Expanding our Services

Did you know that Bellingham Food Bank has an amazing Board of Directors? It's true. They may be our least visible volunteers, but they are incredibly committed and do invaluable work.

One of our Board's biggest tasks is to set, and then adjust, the direction we go. Every three years the Board builds the food bank's three-year strategic plan. In 2015 we spent time reviewing our past, analyzing current trends, and trying to predict the future.

Perhaps the biggest theme of our strategic plan is "access." We are pretty proud of the service families who visit our food bank receive. However, we know there are many hungry folks out there who need our help but cannot always make it to our Ellis Street location. We have lots of good ideas, but it's the details that separate a good idea from a great program. So far, we are considering the following:
  • Expanding our home delivery program from 30 households per week to up to 200
  • Adding other mobile or school-based pantries like our Alderwood Elementary program to similarly isolated parts of our city, and/or
  • Offering a weekend or another evening distribution at Ellis Street

All of these ideas are inspiring, ambitious, and doable. But how and when we take them on are critical decisions that require a lot of thought. First, we don't want any new program to hamper our existing core programs. Secondly, we need to research the best and most effective methods for each of these ideas. Finally, which ones should we do first? We know we shouldn't start a group of new initiatives all at once, so where to begin?

We are excited about finding new ways to get our desperately needed services to the folks who need help. I can promise that whatever we decide to do, we will do it well and without diminishing the good things we're already accomplishing.

Our current levels of support are the only reason we can even think about programmatic growth. And we'd love to hear what you think. If you have any ideas or questions, please give me a call or send me an email at
Mike Cohen
Executive Director

Tessa and Family
Feeling Restored
by Community
"Bellingham is such an amazing place. I've never lived anywhere where community is so evident and welcoming." This is something Tessa wasn't used to growing up in Michigan, where "the mindset seemed so different; people tended to stick to themselves."

Tessa and her husband Chuck met and fell in love while working in Kentucky. And just over two years ago they relocated to Bellingham for Chuck's work. Pregnant with their son Qoheleth they bought a house and soon fell in love with their new community. "There are so many warm and engaging people you meet here, like at events like the Sunnyland Stomp or at the Co-op." She met new friends through her Facebook page for local moms interested in healthy living.

Tessa also learned from a neighbor about BFB's Garden Project, where volunteers build raised-bed vegetable gardens for families. Tessa applied and soon had a garden built in her backyard. Tessa's family expanded with the birth of daughter Junia, and they all delight in working in their garden. "It's so cool for kids to grow their own food." She adds, "I never had a garden before. Now it's an addiction!" Tessa also enjoys photography and shares some of the pictures of her kids and garden on Instagram. One of her photos is included in a mural inside BFB.

2016 started off on a devastating note for Tessa's family when Chuck was laid off. It was then that Tessa began coming to our food bank. "What was surprising for me was how accessible it is. I initially felt nervous and was worried what people would think." But Tessa says the nervousness quickly changed to gratitude and a feeling of being "revitalized" due to the friendliness of the volunteers, staff and other clients. Tessa was also surprised at the quality of the food offered. "There's always fresh produce and other healthy foods."

At the end of January Tessa's family received good news. Chuck was hired by a Bellevue firm and is now telecommuting. She says they are so glad there's a resource like BFB "where neighbors are helping neighbors." And she encourages anyone who's struggling, whether it's with an unexpected medical bill, car repair, or becoming unemployed, "to just come to the food bank. Our community is here to help in hard times."

Trailhead Athletics
Going the Extra Mile

Passion and commitment. Results. And fun! This pretty much sums up Trailhead Athletics' approach to business and life. And also their recent food and fund drive for Bellingham Food Bank.
Nicola Mann, owner and trainer, is "passionately committed to helping people live their best lives." She started Trailhead about six years ago because  she was tired of the traditional gym scene. And she wanted to inspire and help other athletes to reach their fitness goals in sports such as biking, running, and skiing.
This year Nicola decided to also help inspire her clients to give back to the Bellingham community. Her efforts began as a "Train the Trainer" food drive. Clients were encouraged to bring in non-perishable food, and they could then ask/make the trainers do any exercise. "They enjoyed punishing us a little bit...the hanging knees to elbows exercise was the toughest," says Nicola. Food contributions came rolling in.
And then a client encouraged them to add a "beer mile" fundraiser. A beer mile consists of running a mile while stopping at each quarter mile to drink a beer. Initially Nicola wasn't keen on the idea. However, once "beer mile dude" offered to kick in a significant financial donation, the run was on. Soon people were signing up and paying $20 per entry. Spectators/hecklers were also encouraged to attend, and they kicked in contributions. On the day of the run, more than a dozen folks participated and many others watched and cheered.
And did they get results. The Trailhead Athletics community collected 218 pounds of food and raised more than $1,800 for our Milk Money program. Nicola was jazzed and says they will do another food and fund drive next year. She smiles and adds, "But, perhaps not another beer mile, as I really prefer gin and tonics." Thanks Trailhead Athletics for your amazing spirit and efforts! It's great to have you as part of our team.
Each week BFB purchases more than 1,000 half gallons of milk for food bank families. Would your business or group like to be a Milk Money sponsor? Give us call!


  • Provided service for over 147,000 client visits
  • Distributed nearly 3.6 million lbs. of food  to Bellingham's hungry
  • Partnered with local farmers to grow  more than 53,000 lbs. of nutritious produce for food bank families
  • Gleaned 131,000 lbs. of fresh food for Whatcom County families
  • Built 25 raised-bed vegetable gardens for low-income families
  • Distributed 38,000 lbs. of produce collected from our Victory Gardens program