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It takes a village to feed hungry kids on Whidbey Island
Whidbey Island Nourishes (WIN), a 7-year-old South Whidbey nonprofit organization that provides nutritious free food to hungry children and adults, has opened a new coinless food vending machine behind Clinton Community Hall.
WIN has had a coinless vending machine conveniently located behind the South Whidbey Commons on Second Street in Langley, and has long had a plan to add another machine in Clinton. The vending machines are used primarily by teens and families who need food support.
Offered at both vending machines are ham and cheese, turkey and cheese, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, veggies, trail mix, string cheese, milk, yogurt and granola. At times, salads and bean, rice and cheese wraps are also available.
WIN offered complete lunches at the Clinton Good Cheer Store when it was near the Food Mart, but the clientele didn’t make the move along with Good Cheer when it relocated to Ken’s Korner last fall.
“We know there are people in Clinton who need this food, but may not be able to get to Ken’s Korner for the lunches,” said WIN founder Mary Fisher. “So when Clinton Progressive Association offered us a site and Rotary gave us a grant, we plunged into the project of placing a vending machine in Clinton.”
Thanks to the generous grant from South Whidbey Rotary, cooperation from the Clinton Progressive Association, donations of materials from local businesses and a dedicated crew of volunteers, the new building housing the vending machine opened May 23.
“WIN’s goals fit in with Rotary’s main mission, which is to feed the world,” said South Whidbey Rotary President Don Rowan. “Their project fit the bill for a grant from Rotary International.”
Rowan acknowledged that while Rotary supplied the money, WIN is the driver of the project.
Karen Franklin of Rotary wrote the grant application and the Clinton Progressive Association (CPA) made room for the new building behind the Community Hall on Central Avenue.
“We’re happy to collaborate with such a great organization as WIN,” said Carol Flax, CPA president. “They deserve our support.”
Once the site was assured, WIN board member Dorit Zingarelli designed the building and coordinated the project, with help from local builder Dave Johnson and the Builders’ Association.
Johnson helped procure donations from ProBuild, Whidbey Door Systems, Pacific Windows and Doors, Milgard Windows, Bartlett Electric and Sebo’s Hardware, enabling volunteers to build the structure at low cost.
Construction volunteers led by Johnson included Don Cornett, Trevor Jones, Tom Norton, Jim Thelen and Tim Thomson.
Rotary volunteer Ray Green installed trim and did the painting, fixed the vending machine door so it will open smoothly and built shelving for condiments and supplies.
“I’m happy to help out,” said Green. “It’s a neat project.”
Seven years ago, Mary Fisher learned that there were 60 known homeless teens on South Whidbey. She told her friends, and they told their friends, and WIN got started providing healthy food to hungry kids outside of normal school hours.
Fisher and her friends contacted the schools because they wondered what children who got free or reduced price lunches had to eat on weekends. They decided to initiate the “Backpack Program” which provides weekend lunches to families who sign up.
WIN sends home family bags of food with qualified elementary school children on Thursdays to tide them over the weekend. In the summer, weekend food bags are distributed at the Good Cheer Food Bank in Bayview.
For teens and others, WIN offers complete lunches at Good Cheer Food Bank, and a la carte items at Whidbey Academy, the HUB in Langley, and in the coinless vending machine at South Whidbey Commons and now at the new site in Clinton.
“We need to get the word out about the new Clinton site,” said Fisher. “We also need to let people know to access the machine from the left side of the building as you’re facing it, and not to cut across private property to get there.”
The little outbuilding cannot be seen when facing the community hall, but if visitors walk around to the back of the hall on the totem pole side and turn right, the little building with diamond shaped windows and a yellow door is clearly visible.
Summer hours for the Clinton site will be 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
“We’ve been told by some teens that what they get from our vending machines is the only food they have,” said Fisher. “They appreciate the nutritious choices we’re offering them. We’ve even gotten thank you notes for fruit and fresh veggies.”
WIN food is prepared by volunteers who work three days a week in the kitchen of the former South Whidbey Primary School.
WIN’s funding comes primarily from local donors, both individuals and businesses, and is supplemented by grants. For more information, to donate, or to volunteer, go to whidbeyislandnourishes.org.