Second Harvest offered the basics: at least 10 pounds of turkey, an 8-pound honey-baked ham, croutons, Washington-grown apples, milk and olives.
And the line of cars wrapped around the Spokane County Fair & Expo Center early Tuesday morning to be on the receiving end of one Spokane’s best-known Thanksgiving traditions: Tom’s Turkey Drive.
The event is named after Tom Sherry, a longtime meteorologist at KREM-TV, which organizes the drive with Second Harvest.
Volunteers with Second Harvest, the Spokane-based food distributor that delivers food to 26 counties in the Inland Northwest, and its partners were there at 5:30 a.m., said Eric Williams, the food bank’s community partnerships director.
“It says a lot about our volunteers and their dedication,” Williams said while handing out meal boxes to families in passing cars Tuesday.
One of those volunteers was Joe Guerrinha. This is his seventh year helping at the turkey drive , he said.
“I’m so grateful I’m able to come and help the community,” Guerrinha said.
Second Harvest starts preparing in January for the meal distribution, said Kathy Hedgcock, the organization’s senior vice president of philanthropy. Each year they prep for 11,000 meals – 8,000 are distributed at the turkey drive, and the other 3,000 are sent to outlying rural food pantries.
The hams are a new addition for this year’s food drive. The event saw more people this year in need than 2019, but still less than when a worldwide pandemic ravaged people’s ability to buy balanced and healthy meals, Williams said.
National price inflation and supply chain shortages meant the organizers had to replace the usual yams with olives, but because they start preparing so early in the year, they’ve been able to circumvent the worst of those issues, Hedgcock said.
The hams came after Spokane County distributed about $9 million in CARES Act funding, or the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Second Harvest decided to use part of its funds to order the honey-baked hams, Williams said.
“There’s so much need in the community, and it’s good to be helping with that,” Guerrinha said.
Boxes carry food meant to feed a family of four, Hedgcock said, but they assume most families will want to keep some as post-Thanksgiving leftovers.
The drive has become so popular that Second Harvest capped volunteer numbers, Williams said.
The volunteers work in shifts to pack and then stow the boxes of food into the cars of families, so it’s hard to know the real number. But between the Turkey Drive in Spokane and the outlying rural food pantry efforts, Williams estimated there’s nearly 1,000 people helping deliver food.
For larger loads, paid staff operate machinery to lift goods, Williams said.
“We say our first priority is feeding the community, but it’s also about safety,” he said.
While this year has been better in terms of food insecurity, Williams said, they still have seen an uptick in the number of people who come to the food bank than in 2019.
Hosting the Turkey Drive at the fairgrounds, which Second Harvest leased in 2020 as a COVID-19 safety precaution, has been efficient and safer in terms of traffic, Hedgcock said.
“I think there’s a lot of anxiety going into this, and the next years, but we’ve found that this is ideal,” Hedgcock said.I
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