July 17, 2012 in City

Cooler a fresh addition

Food bank can store a lot more produce
By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Chuck Rigsby, Northwest Harvest Spokane warehouse manager, right, now has the use of a refrigeration container. In the background, Dennis Vorhies, driver and warehouse staff member, secures the doors on the unit.
(Full-size photo)

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Food banks are always looking to stock their shelves, but fresh produce is hard to come by.

Now, thanks to a new refrigerated container purchased by Northwest Harvest for its Spokane warehouse, area food banks will have greater access to nutrient-rich and tasty fruits and vegetables. The warehouse serves 27 food banks and meal programs.

“They’ve been actually asking for it, but we haven’t had the right setup,” warehouse manager Chuck Rigsby said of the food banks. “They’re very excited about this.”

The refrigerator will allow the food bank to store thousands of pounds of produce and distribute it over time to partner programs such as Women’s and Children’s Free Restaurant, Our Place Ministries and the Salvation Army.

The container will allow Northwest Harvest to at least double the amount of produce the organization can take in. On Monday, the container held 42,000 pounds of carrots in 840 bags. “The fresh produce I used to get in, we had to get out in a couple days,” Rigsby said. “It was a quick turnaround. This gives us the option to bring in more, bigger loads.”

With the ability to store more produce longer, Northwest Harvest can create “a more consistent stream of produce out to the food banks,” said Julie Delaney, community engagement manager.

When people are on a budget, fresh food is often passed up in exchange for cheaper, processed, more shelf-stable foods, Delaney said, so it’s important to ensure food banks have access to fruits and vegetables.

“For us to be able to provide a wide variety and a steady stream of it because of this cooler is really meeting a need that is present in the community right now,” she said. “All those food banks and programs, that’s their No. 1 request from us, fresh produce.”

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