Second Harvest has the chance to reap an abundance of fresh produce donated by regional farmers but needs more money to deliver the food to those in need.
The organization is asking the community to help raise an additional $100,000 by the end of December to pick up the food from the farms and distribute it to area food banks, which have seen a recent surge in need.
Otherwise, some of the surplus produce could go to waste instead of feeding hungry families in the Inland Northwest.
Regional growers had a long, successful growing season, and despite a high demand for regional produce nationally and internationally, there is still much left over. But the cost of securing the donations is running about $1,000 a day, said Melissa Cloninger, director of community and corporate relations.
She called the need to raise additional funds “urgent.”
“Because of the bountiful harvest, we have an opportunity to capitalize on their generous donations by accepting additional loads of fresh, nutritional produce,” she said. “We need to raise more money.”
The expense comes from high diesel fuel and packaging costs. Second Harvest drivers must pick the food up before it’s repackaged by volunteers and distributed to 26 counties in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
Raising the $100,000 would allow Second Harvest to distribute an additional 600,000 pounds of produce over the next three months, in addition to the 1.8 million pounds of food it already distributes each month.
There’s no shortage of people who could use the fresh food.
While need is not new for Second Harvest – they’ve seen record numbers each year for the past 2 1/2 years – Cloninger said the number of clients at food banks Second Harvest serves has shot up nearly 25 percent in the last few months.
“I think it’s a combination of circumstances,” she said. “It’s the time of year, the holidays, the economic climate.”
Collectively, the 250 food banks in Second Harvest’s distribution network are serving about 50,000 people a week.
She said the recent increase “hit us like a lightning bolt.”
“We did not see this coming,” she said.
The Salvation Army Spokane food bank gets most of its food from Second Harvest. Like many others, it’s reporting an increase in need, a trend that’s repeated itself at many food banks year after year since the recession began.
The organization served a record number of families last week in its food bank – more than 500, many of them using the food bank for the first time, said Sheila Geraghty, business administrator.
The need is always higher during the holiday season, she said.
“We’ve just been slammed in the food bank,” she said. “We just need the Spokane community to step up like they always do for us in our time of need.”