Dine out, raise money
May 11, 2022 at 12:00 p.m.
In a short video for “A day in the life of the Maple Alley Inn,” a dark kitchen comes to vibrant life. As viewers watch coordinator Ann Poulson flick on the lights, don an apron, turn on the stove and welcome volunteers to the space, it becomes clear that those who have gathered to help feed fellow community members aren't only there to provide nutritious, hot meals to those who need them. They are also serving up dignity.
“All people deserve food,” Poulson says in the video as the crew gets to work preparing teriyaki ahi, brown rice, a gigantic amount of salad and other menu items. “All people deserve good food. Anyone who comes in the door is welcome to enjoy our food. There's no requirement to eat here. It's a big meal, and it's intended to be very sustaining. For many of our guests, it's maybe the only meal they're going to eat today, so we want it to have as many nutrients and be as satisfying as a meal can be.”
The video was shot in the days before mask-wearing became commonplace and people were more comfortable gathering in large crowds. For the past two years, the Opportunity Council program that has been dedicated to serving healthy and sustaining meals and fighting hunger in Whatcom County since 1987 has been on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. Those who had come to rely on taking a seat in the great hall of Faith Lutheran Church on a regular basis — low-income families, people experiencing homelessness, veterans, isolated seniors, those in recovery and others — have had to find alternate ways to get their nutritional needs met.
That changed May 4, when the Maple Alley Inn reopened for in-person meal distribution. From noon to 1 p.m. every Wednesday, all are welcome to pick up a free, hot lunch to go from the front doors of Faith Lutheran Church, located at the tail end of Northwest Avenue at 2750 McLeod Rd. Like always, the meals will be prepared from scratch and feature organic vegetables from the Maple Alley Inn Community Garden.
Also back on the calendar is Dine Out for Maple Alley Inn.
The annual fundraiser used to be a one-day affair. On the appointed date — typically the first Tuesday of May — community members could help raise money for the beloved hot meal program by dining at participating restaurants.
For the first time in its history, Dine Out for Maple Alley Inn has been extended to run throughout the month of May. This means that until May 31, opportunities abound to help raise funds for Maple Alley Inn. Participating locales include Boundary Bay Brewery, Brandywine, D'Anna's Cafe Italiano, Diamond Jim's Grill, The Daisy Cafe, Filling Station, Five Columns Restaurant, Kulshan Brewing Co. (K2), Leaf & Ladle, L&L Libations, Marlin's Cafe, Mykonos Restaurant, Old Town Cafe, On Rice Thai Cuisine (Samish), Pure Bliss Desserts, Pepper Sisters, Senor Lopez, Sirena Gelato and Wander Brewing.
Those planning on donating to the fundraiser by eating and drinking at their favorite establishments should take a look at the Dine Out website first to see how each venue is contributing to the cause. Some are donating a flat amount, others are donating a percentage of sales from the month, some are donating $1 to $3 from special menu items, and others have date-specific limitations.
Another food-focused fundraiser is returning this week after a pandemic pause. On Saturday, May 14, the National Letter Carriers Association is bringing back its Stamp Out Hunger campaign, but with a big change. Instead of collecting food donations from residential mailboxes, nearly every Bellingham mailbox will receive an envelope that, if left for their mail carrier with monetary donations inside, will be delivered to the Bellingham Food Bank without the need for postage.
Much like many other hunger relief agencies across the country, the local food bank has started to purchase most of the food it provides. While food donations are still welcome, financial donations allow Bellingham Food Bank to purchase healthy, highly desired foods in large quantities to stock its shelves and prepacked boxes so that everyone in need has access to the same items.
“We are thrilled with this opportunity,” Bellingham Food Bank Executive Director Mike Cohen said in a recent press release regarding Stamp Out Hunger. “The truth is, monetary donations are even better than donated food. It allows our food bank to target exactly what our shoppers want, we can focus on fresh, nutritious foods, and we can get it onto our distribution floor the day we receive it. This fund drive is a great way to give everyone in Bellingham a chance to help feed their community.”
For more details about Dine Out for Maple Alley Inn, go to dineoutbham.com. To find out more about Stamp Out Hunger, go to nalc.org or bellinghamfoodbank.org.