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Inflation and gas prices hurting food banks. Second Harvest struggles to adjust

June 16, 2022 Updated Thu., June 16, 2022 at 9:11 p.m.

By Alexandria Osborne Tri-City Herald

The COVID-19 pandemic may have eased a bit, but the need for food assistance in the Tri-Cities and Eastern Washington has not.

Second Harvest, the nonprofit that supplies food banks and meal sites, is still seeing double the demand for food than what was seen in 2019.

And now there are new challenges.

The need for food assistance hasn’t slowed down, but inflation and soaring gas prices are making it harder to feed those in need. But one local group is trying to help.

For the third year, Hanford workers are raising money with the One Hanford Feeding Families Fundraiser.

“The money that they raise benefits us at Second Harvest which then allows us to buy food and provide more variety to folks,” said Eric Williams, community partnerships director.

Williams said costs for food and gas have gone up recently.

While Second Harvest still has a good amount in stock, it’s getting more expensive to buy food and to pick it up and distribute it.

Jean Tucker, Second Harvest philanthropy manager, said part of the reason the demand is still high is because of inflation, and people are having to make the tough decision between paying a bill or buying groceries.

“No one should have to make those types of choices,” she said. “Everyone should have plenty of healthy, fresh food.”

Tucker said Second Harvest is the food bank for all food pantries in the area. They get donations of bulk food from farmers, food processors and grocery retail partners and bring the food to their distribution center.

Volunteers then help separate the food into smaller quantities before it gets sent to food banks and meal programs. Tucker said the Hanford Feeding Families Fundraiser helps distribute healthy food to Benton and Franklin counties.

Tucker said Second Harvest uses several large semitrucks that go through a lot of fuel, especially since they serve a large geographic area with a lot of rural communities.

Second Harvest will sometimes buy food to distribute, but even with donations, fuel costs are still impacting them.

The COVID-19 pandemic escalated the demand for food in the region.

In 2019, Second Harvest distributed 22 million pounds of food in the geographic area.

The next year, that number jumped 57% to 52 million pounds.

Last year, Second Harvest distributed less, about 39 million pounds, but it was still 19% more than in 2019.

This year, Tucker said they are projecting to distribute 38 million pounds by the end of the fiscal year, which is only a few weeks away.

The goal for the Hanford Feeding Families Fundraiser is to raise $60,000.

The money will be used to source and distribute healthy food to food banks and meal programs in Benton and Franklin counties.

Tucker said for every dollar donated, Second Harvest is able to provide food for five meals.

“That will be a large total and a great impact for families in need right here in our area,” she said.

Williams said every dollar the fundraiser brings in is beneficial, even if the $60,000 goal isn’t met.

“The most rewarding thing that we get out of it is it increases our ability to get nourishing food to the people who need it, particularly kids and seniors,” he said.

Tucker said she is grateful for Hanford hosting the fundraiser for a third year, because it speaks to the commitment to helping the community so people don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from.

Donations can be made on Second Harvest’s online donation page. Community members also can mail or drop off a check to Second Harvest at 6825 Burlington Loop, Pasco.

Hanford’s fundraiser ends Friday, but donations for Second Harvest are accepted year-round.

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