Elleni Mendoza
KF Warehouse Manager

Guest Writer: Sally Zalac

Kitsap Fresh’s Warehouse Manager, Elleni Mendoza, hosted our interview in the warehouse, with ample room for social distancing. Driving through the rows of white commercial buildings in the small industrial park that houses Kitsap Fresh, I was caught off guard by what I thought was the scent of peanut butter cookies. I later realized I was smelling actual peanuts roasting at CB’s Nuts, a small business housed next door. The scent was so fitting for my time with Elleni, mother of seven, nurturer of an additional three grandparents, who makes everyone feel welcomed.  Elleni laughed about celebrating holidays in a limited Covid style with 13 people in her immediate household.

Elleni wears two hats at Kitsap Fresh, one as Warehouse Manager, which includes her spending each Monday cleaning and sterilizing every bin, box, cooler, shelf and floor. The second, as the Port Orchard site attendant, gives her the opportunity to make deliveries in her large family vehicle. 

Tuesdays at the warehouse is meat and dairy delivery day, where Elleni pulls and tags each order, along with any value-added products. The massive amount of fresh produce and baked goods arriving early Wednesday morning requires additional staff, especially since Kitsap Fresh’s weekly orders have more than doubled this year alone. Currently under renovation, the office space next door will be open to expansion in the near future. Kitsap Fresh is alive and well in the time of Covid-19!

Groups of rolling shelves separated by pick-up location, called “Covid-pockets” by the staff, allow social distancing as they fill orders. All customer requests need to be processed and packed by 2:30 PM on Wednesdays and loaded for transport. Elleni wears a warm winter hat for her second job, manning the outdoor Port Orchard site, where I rely on her ready smile and cheerful attitude each week.

During our visit, a worker from Pike Place Market’s City Fish Co. dropped off boxes of fresh pasta from Pasta Casalinga, as well as Kitsap Fresh’s order of Tonnemaker Farms’ fruit. Elleni’s strong beliefs in the importance of healthy, local food for all, and her previous experience in a medical clinic management, enhance the experience of being an important cog in the Kitsap Fresh machine. She is excited to participate in the growth of Kitsap County’s online farmers market, especially with the roll out of Kitsap Fresh’s pilot home delivery program on Bainbridge Island. I will miss my weekly connection with Elleni should her responsibilities become more centered in Poulsbo.

Sally Zalac is a valued customer and volunteer for Kitsap Fresh. She has a passion for local farms, organic food and regenerative farming.

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