Need for food and response rises significantly in region
Second Harvest of the Inland Northwest reports that the need for food in the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be high nationally and in the Inland Northwest.
In the fiscal year from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020, it distributed 43 million pounds of food, enough for 35.8 million meals for people experiencing hunger, through its more than 200 food banks in 26 counties in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
"Before the pandemic, we distributed about 217,000 pounds of food a week through our county hunger-relief network," said Jason Clark, president and CEO. "Since March, we averaged 465,000 pounds a week."
This is 11 million more pounds of food than in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, he said. In July and August, Second Harvest distributed 6.1 million pounds of food in 2019, and 10.3 million pounds in 2020.
Jason also contrasted distribution at the Mobile Markets, which supplement food banks and pantries. There were 359 mobile market events from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, 2020, distributing more than 4.8 million pounds of food, including nearly 1.9 million pounds of fresh produce to 16,805 families.
From January to mid-October 2019, Second Harvest did 107 mobile food events. In that period in 2020, it did 414 mobile events because of more need.
"As people drove through mobile food event at the Spokane County Fairgrounds in September, 40 percent said it was the first time they had gone to a food bank," he said.
Many also receive food distributed at schools. Families drive up and pick up a lunch in a food bag, Jason said.
Meanwhile, less food is available from food rescue with restaurants and grocery stores.
Historically, Second Harvest has received little government funding, Jason said, but it accepted a $9 million grant from Spokane County under federal CARES Act funding.
Of those funds, 91 percent is to purchase food and the rest is for fuel, freight, equipment, packaging, deliveries and rental of off-site storage.
The food will be distributed through Second Harvest's 94 nonprofit agencies and 102 school partners in Spokane County, its Mobile Markets and Bite2Go.
Some temporary programs will end:
• Funding for the USDA's Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, Farmers to Families, was extended to a fourth round and will run six weeks starting on Nov. 2. Second Harvest distributed about 12,000 boxes a week since mid-May.
• The National Guard is expected to begin demobilization on Dec. 15 from assisting with Pasco and Spokane distributions.
• The Washington Emergency Food Box program ends Dec. 16. Since April, Second Harvest has distributed about 10,000 boxes a week.
For information, call 534-6678 or visit 2-harvest.org.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, November, 2020