Second Harvest distributes food in many ways
The second wave of the COVID-19 crisis is hunger among families who have suffered economic shocks and are turning to food pantries to feed their families, said Jason Clark, president and CEO of Second Harvest, in a video presentation online.
Second Harvest seeks to make a difference by meeting basic needs and closing food resource gaps for families and individuals who are overwhelmed by the disruption caused by the coronavirus.
In addition to supplying partner food pantries in the region, it has increased direct distribution through its mobile market.
"Many people seek assistance at a mobile market for the first time," he said, expressing the importance of making people feel welcome. "It's hard with drive-through distributions that limit contact. We help people feel okay by offering smiles and waves, as we help them put food on the table."
In this crisis, Second Harvest seeks to keep staff, volunteers and the food they handle safe.
"Donors, farmers and food industry partners help us find food," he said. "Economic shocks keep coming and we need to continue responding even as we search for solutions to provide more food for the coming year."
Unemployment in the 26 counties Second Harvest serves was nearly 60,000 in early May, similar to 2009, when demand for food was double the normal amount. Jason anticipates needing two to four times the food distribution levels of 2019 for the next year.
Second Harvest is innovating to address this challenge to make sure vulnerable neighbors facing hunger have the food they need, he said.
Recently the National Guard helped Three Rivers Convention Center staff in Kennewick distribute food to 1,500 cars driving through the center's parking lot over two days. On May 15, they gave out 180,000 pounds of food, Second Harvest's largest mobile distribution ever. In late April, the Spokane warehouse distributed 170,000 pounds of food in its parking lot over six hours.
While some farmers plow under crops and pour out milk because of disruptions in the supply chain, Second Harvest helped Washington farmers give away 100,000 pounds of potatoes in the Tri-Cities.
"We supplement donated food with purchased bulk food and repack it as fast as we can. Canned goods are hard to find and variety in the donated food supply is diminishing," he said.
Second Harvest now partners with Spokane Food Fighters started by Marcus Riccelli to help restaurants prepare meals for shut-ins. They partnered to deliver more than 1,500 emergency food boxes to families in April and May.
Second Harvest continues to partner with At the Core and Spokane Public Schools to deliver mobile markets at schools with Bite to Go weekend nutrition programs.
While supplying neighborhood pantries is the primary approach to deliver food to people facing food insecurity—serving tens of thousands of people each week—Jason said more direct distribution may be needed to meet the region's rising need. In April, 75 mobile markets served 20,000 families.
In the pandemic, food pantry distribution methods are challenging because many rely on volunteers who are older and vulnerable. Many pantries lack adequate refrigeration for the food provided.
Second Harvest distributed 5.8 million pounds of food from March 1 to May 1, with a record of 1.3 million pounds the week of April 27.
Second Harvest's operating costs are up with the increased cost of food acquisition, plus logistics and trucking costs, Jason said.
The Washington National Guard works beside staff and volunteers to process, prepare and ship donated produce, frozen foods and dry goods, and to help with mobile distributions.
Recently, Life Center Church committed to be part of the solution to hunger, he said, providing a matching gift of $125,000. On a Saturday in May members raised $135,000 for a gift of $260,000.
Second Harvest accepts food donations from food drives or homes, but encourages people to give money instead because it means one less physical interaction and enables Second Harvest to respond flexibly in this crisis, he said.
For information, call 534-6678 or visit 2-harvest.org.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June, 2020