Second Harvest fills a basic human need: feeding hungry families
In the Inland Northwest, 1 in 8 people struggle with hunger. Given the choice of paying rent and utilities, working families often choose to miss five or more meals a week to make ends meet.
Second Harvest, a food distribution center established in 1971, feeds 55,000 children, families and seniors weekly through its many partnerships and programs.
Julie Humphreys, community relations manager, said this equates to 31 million pounds of food per year, which is distributed to 250 food banks, pantries or meal sites throughout Eastern Washington and five North Idaho counties.
Second Harvest, where 6,000 volunteers sort the food at its Spokane distribution center, has five main resources for food.
One is Grocery Rescue, which makes up 37 percent of food received. It involves daily donations from 162 grocery stores. Although the food is sometimes close to expiration of its shelf life/purchase date, Humphreys said it is very good food available to help people as opposed to going to waste.
Area growers and farmers make up 27 percent of donations. They collectively donate millions of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables per year.
Manufacturers and distributors, including large corporate donors, make up 23 percent of the donated food with the balance of support rounded out by small food drives and the USDA.
Humphreys said the small food drives are special because quite often it’s children who do the legwork, which helps raise awareness that there is a problem, even in their own neighborhoods.
Second Harvest volunteers sort items three times daily at the Spokane distribution center. From there food is distributed free to support agencies such as the Union Gospel Mission, Salvation Army, church organizations and women’s and children’s agencies. Recipients just have to be set up with proper refrigeration and storage to accept the food.
“We feed people who are hungry right now,” Humphreys said.
Many of Second Harvest’s partner agencies also help people struggling with homelessness and addiction. However, they also feed many working families where a single parent or both parents work at low-paying jobs and need a little help.
Second Harvest also has expanded “The Kitchen” at its distribution center, a space where cooking lessons and nutrition education is offered. Some cooking classes are free, including ones that help educate people in preparing certain foods and learning to like unfamiliar ones.
More advanced classes such as pasta making do require payment, but any money goes toward subsidizing the free classes. There is also a “mobile market,” a truck that carries 8,000 to 10,000 pounds of food, which and can be sent to schools or at-risk neighborhoods.
The Second Harvest kitchen will be featured at the Dorothy Dean Cooking Show event at the Spokane Convention Center. Second Harvest will also receive a portion of ticket sales to the event will be donated to Second Harvest to help feed hungry families.
For more information about Second Harvest, visit www.2-harvest.org.