August 9, 2008 in City

Pet-food banks see rise in need

Animal welfare agencies depend on donations
By The Spokesman-Review

Where to turn

Pet-food banks

Humane Society: 6607 N. Havana, near Francis Street and Bigelow Gulch Road in Spokane. (509) 467-5235.

Concerned People for Animals: Behind the Rathdrum Food Bank, 8015 W. Main St., #2, Rathdrum, Idaho. (208) 687-3696.

Supplies low at Second Harvest

The cost of fuel is taking a toll on area food banks.

“We’re really feeling the crunch right now,” said Jason Clark, executive director of Second Harvest Inland Northwest, the region’s distribution center for donated food to more than 300 food banks in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

Second Harvest typically processes 1.2 million to 1.4 million pounds of food each month to help feed nearly 200,000 people, 44 percent of whom are children.

“In July we barely had 800,000 pounds,” Clark said. “August is looking pretty slow, too.”

He said the cost of moving a truckload of donated food from California has doubled from $1,500 a couple of years ago to $3,000 today. As a result, Second Harvest can afford a truckload every other week instead of one a week.

Clark asks that local gardeners plant more and donate a little extra to help put produce on the tables of those who can’t afford it.

“We can put the extra to use right away,” he said.

Contact Second Harvest at (509) 534-6678 or The organization is at 1234 E. Front Ave., Spokane.

Kevin Graman

When it becomes difficult to put food on the table, some families turn to food banks for help. Feeding a family that way is a challenge – but when you add a few pets, things can get really tough. .

“More people are calling and showing up, asking for pet food, than ever before,” said Dori Peck, outreach coordinator for the Humane Society in Spokane. “Last year we gave out 20,000 pounds of pet food to low-income and homeless people. We ask for basic information and log people, but we don’t turn anyone away.”

The Humane Society runs the largest pet-food bank in the area.

“With the cost of gas and everything else getting more expensive, pet food goes to the bottom of the list” for families, Peck said. Kibble for the food bank is donated by residents and retailers.

In Rathdrum, Concerned People for Animals runs a pet-food bank out of a shed behind the human-food bank.

“We started the pet-food bank two years ago,” said Ami Gibson, who operates the facility. “We are seeing more and more people. Times are tougher.”

Gibson said Concerned People for Animals served 2,300 pet owners last year. Like the Humane Society, the pet-food bank’s supplies are donated. Concerned People for Animals only provides emergency supplies to feed dogs and cats that have been spayed or neutered.

“We use the food as an incentive,” Gibson said. “If the pet isn’t fixed, then we’ll help you find a low-priced solution.”

Sharon Dillon manages the Rathdrum Food Bank, where demand for pet and human food is increasing, she said.

“We have people who are in here asking for pet food all the time,” she said.

Dillon said she worries about the number of pets taken in by some families.

“I think some people have way too many pets,” Dillon said. “I’m sorry, but if you don’t have money for your own groceries, you don’t need five dogs to feed.”

At Second Harvest Inland Northwest, which supplies most regional food banks, pet food sometimes shows up during community food drives.

“We don’t get specific pet food requests from the organizations we serve, but we do get pet food,” said Rod Wieber, director of donor and community relations. “At the community food drives, people reason that our clients also have pets and need to take care of them.” Other pet food comes in the mixed shipments from big retailers such as Safeway and Albertsons.

SpokAnimal C.A.R.E., the city of Spokane’s animal shelter, has hosted a pet food bank for years, said director Gail Mackie, but it’s not always stocked because feeding animals in the shelter takes first priority.

“Those who call for help can come in, volunteer some time and receive food as long as we have stock available,” Mackie said. Nancy Hill, director of Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Services, said times are tough.

“Depending on our supply we can help people out a little bit,” Hill said. “But we may eventually run low, too, as most of our (shelter) food is donated.”

Meanwhile, shelter operators are seeing more animals dropped off or abandoned in fields and ditches.

“A lot of people are having a tough time financially right now – we don’t want them to abandon their pets,” said Peck. The organization would rather “give people the food it takes to keep the pet at home, with the family, than have them bring the animal into the shelter.”

Contact Pia Hallenberg Christensen at (509) 459-5427 or

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