FISH Food Bank back on its feet after fire


Chace Davy, News Editor

Carla Tacher watched in shock as the place she called her second home burned to the ground last Thanksgiving weekend. The contents and the building itself, according to Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue, were a 100 percent loss.
Tacher has been the kitchen manager at the FISH Food Bank for the last three years. In the span of a few hours, the thousands of pounds of food donated to the bank were destroyed.
“I sort of lost who I was, because I no longer had a place that I showed up for, and a space,” Tacher said.
Tacher had trouble getting back on her feet after the fire.
“I was the first one on the scene,” Tacher said. “It was super traumatic.”
She and her daughter were grabbing a cup of cocoa when she saw smoke billowing from her beloved food bank.
When she arrived at the scene, she rushed in and unlocked the building for the firefighters, who didn’t have the keys; the building had been rekeyed a week prior.
“By that time, I had started to breath in a lot of smoke…I wasn’t thinking…[a fireman] grabbed me and threw me out of the building…I sat in [an ambulance] for an hour and a half,” Tacher said.

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Thousands of pounds of food, as well as equipment, were lost during the FISH food bank fire over Thanksgiving weekend.

Two days after the fire, FISH relocated to a building behind the Mercer Creek Church and was working its way toward being fully operational again.
“In a month, we’ve really been able to, thankfully, get some sort of regularity, and still be able to serve the people,” Tacher said.
According to Tacher, donations came pouring in from everywhere in an attempt to replace the thousands of pounds of food that were lost in the fire.
“The community has rallied in so many ways,” Tacher said. “I really love Ellensburg.”
Tacher believes the food bank is a part of her identity.
Once a beneficiary of the services that FISH provides, Tacher knows that what FISH does makes a world of difference to everybody who stops by.
That is why it was so important to Tacher to get FISH up and running again as soon as possible.
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, FISH serves lunch. Dinner is served on Saturdays. Around 1,600 individuals each month take advantage of the services FISH provides, according to Tacher, including Jessicah Sugiura and her family.
The food bank means everything to Sugiura.
“It’s like the cornerstone of the community as it is,” Sugiura said. “Everybody that comes in, they know each other… The staff, they know us all by first name, they know all of our problems.”
Sugiura has been dealing with brain cancer for the past six years, and the food bank serves not only as a place to get a healthy meal, but also as a support network for her and her family.

On top of the generous donations by the Ellensburg community, the Central nutrition program and Nutrition Club have helped support the bank after the fire.
Susan Hawk, professor of nutritional science and dietetics program director, teaches a class that gets students involved with the food bank.
The class gets students to help Tacher in the kitchen cooking healthy meals for the people who stop by.
This year, the students are going to go into the food bank and create, from the resources available, a grain-based side dish and a vegetable dish to serve the community.
“We’re not going in with pre-purchased fancy food items and adding a side dish,” Hawk said.
According to Hawk, it’s much like the show Iron Chef, where they have a set list of ingredients and come up with a meal from what they are given.
According to Hawk, poor food resource management is one of the leading causes of obesity and disease in the United States, especially in impoverished areas.
For instance, in some parts of Oakland, there is a high density of people who only have easy access to a corner market that may not contain the proper foods necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The goal for Hawk is to not only teach the students how to be creative with food on a budget, but also to teach the community how they can make better choices when cooking or buying food.
“Ellensburg is like a family to the students,” Hawk said. “We all rally and support each other.”
When the Nutrition Club comes to help out at FISH, they fill the boxes they give to the families with healthy meals and provide the recipe of that meal.
“We realize nutrition very much affects the way we carry on in life,” Tacher said. “As a nation, it’s an epidemic of obesity and diabetes and other illnesses.”
Hawk encourages students to go out and volunteer with the food bank. FISH only employs five paid members, and therefore relies heavily on volunteers.
“A lot of people are just a paycheck away from being in the same position,” Hawk said.

According to Tacher, the plan is to stay at their current location for the next year before they look at moving out.
They will look at either moving to a completely different warehouse or rebuilding at the burn site of the old food bank.
Like with everything else Tacher does, she has a positive attitude about the future of FISH.
“I think that it’s a real interesting time of growth and change,” Tacher said. “I really look forward to what 2015 will bring. We’re all on this journey together.”