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Steaks fly the coop in food bank burglary

1,600 pounds of food stolen

It looks as if someone is going to be serving steaks for dinner for a long time to come.

Last week, thieves targeted the Klickitat-Skamania Development Council Food Bank in Bingen, and made off with what amounted to a truckload of cube steaks.

"They took close to 1,000 pounds of frozen cube steak," said Linda Schneider, executive director of KSDC. "They took bolt cutters and cut locks on our walk-in refrigerator and our walk-in freezer. Then they went to each of the rigs we have here and tried to get gas, but most of them had locking gas caps."

In addition to the 1,000 pounds of steak, thieves got away with another 600 pounds of food from the refrigerator. Other items stolen included eggs, diced potatoes, salads, and bread.

"It's really unfortunate," said Schneider. "This is the fourth time we've been broken into in the last several years."

According to Klickitat County Sheriff Chris Mace, the theft apparently occurred in the early morning hours of July 6.

"The Washington State Patrol responded to the area on the evening of July 5 after receiving a report of a person siphoning gas. State Patrol couldn't find a suspect, so he cleared," Mace explained. "We had a report of a male suspect in a white Pontiac Grand Am-type of car, with Montana plates. The plates came back as stolen, so that doesn't help us a lot."

It wasn't until the morning, when KSDC employees came to work, that the food thefts were discovered.

"They found the walk-in cooler had been broken in to, and a semi-truck with a reefer unit used for food storage had its locks cut," Mace said. "And six vehicles had their gas caps off in attempts to siphon gasoline."

Officers speculated that whoever was siphoning gasoline returned later and stole the food.

"It probably happened in the early morning hours of July 6, I would imagine," Mace said.

Food bank operators said it is unusual when the center, located at 1250 E. Steuben (State Route 14) in Bingen, has meat products.

"The meat was just a donation," Schneider explained. "Meat products are the hardest thing for us to get, and it's real unusual when we have cube steaks. It was a special deal from Seattle."

Schneider said the organization had decided to install a security system to prevent any more losses.

"We're taking money normally used for food and putting in a security system," she explained. "The system will cost about $600, and we're going to try to get different lighting, too."

For an agency with a tight budget to begin with, diverting that much money toward security will hurt.

"With the discounts we get, we could purchase over 4,000 pounds of food for that money," Schneider explained. "The food bank gets special deals from Spokane and Seattle for surplus and salvage foods. Not only do we not get the meat, but now we'll also have less money for food purchases. It's hard on us."

The KSDC food bank in Bingen distributes food for families in an area that stretches east-west from Dallesport to Mill A, and north-south from Bingen to Trout Lake and Glenwood.

In the month of June, the food bank served 646 households in the area. Schneider said that was a fairly typical monthly distribution.

Schneider said she had no clue as to how or why the thieves took so much food.

"They'll probably take it out of the area and sell it," she said.

According to Schneider, two individuals were arrested in one of the earlier break-ins. No suspects have yet been identified in this latest case.

"It's under investigation," Mace said. "If anyone saw anything suspicious in the area that night, contact Deputy Jason Ritoch at the west end office, 493-1811, or call dispatch in Goldendale at 773-4545. We'd sure appreciate any help we could get."


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