Author: Claire Hurd


We had the honor of celebrating the life of Second Harvest’s founder, the late Kay Porta, with her family. They gathered in Spokane recently in honor of Kay, who passed away of natural causes last year while close to family in Western Washington. She was 96. The pandemic had delayed plans to honor Kay’s memory in her hometown. Along with a celebration of life service on July 23, Kay’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren stopped by Second Harvest to witness the legacy that she left behind.  

When Kay’s three daughters and their families visited, they were greeted by our president and CEO, Jason Clark. The staff wore green and orange ribbons that day in Kay’s honor, and pictures of her were on display in our Volunteer Center. As Kay’s great-grandchildren entered the lobby, they immediately recognized the images of “grandma.” It was an emotional day for all involved. But it is important we remember and celebrate Kay as the catalyst of change she was.  

Fifty years ago, Kay Porta and a group of community members came together for the first time to talk about hunger in our community and what could be done to combat it. At the time, Kay was working for the Department of Social and Health Services and took the lead in addressing the hunger crisis. In 1971, inflation and an unstable economy left kids, families and seniors hungry—many for the first time. Kay started the conversation about how to connect food resources with hungry people. 

The collaboration that evolved amidst the mission to end hunger with churches, charitable organizations, and neighborhood centers gave birth to the Spokane Food Bank. The city provided a 2,000 square foot space, rent-free, at 159 S. Howard St., and that served as home for Second Harvest’s beginning.  

In an interview in 2011, Kay said, “The proudest thing I did in social work was to put the food bank together, and I’m glad to know that after all these years it’s still going. It’s changed with the times, but it’s still meeting that basic need for food.”  

We want to celebrate Kay and her unwavering commitment, compassion and drive to provide our neighbors with their basic need for food. We continue to sit on Kay’s shoulders to this day. And while we continue to get healthy food to where it’s needed most now in 2021, we remember Kay Porta, who laid the groundwork for our mission 50 years ago. 

Today, our Kay Porta Legacy Society provides the opportunity for people to make a lasting gift that will feed people in need for years to come. Gifts of any size can be made now or posthumously and there is no “appropriate” or “recommended” gift size. The Kay Porta Legacy Society allows for anyone interested in being part of the solution to hunger to do so within their means.  

If you are interested in reading more about the Kay Porta Legacy Society, visit 

For more information, contact Tony Cook at (509) 252-6277 or 

Read Kay Porta’s obituary here: Kay Porta, who help start the region’s food bank, remembered for helping people in need | The Spokesman-Review 

Feeding Eastern Washington and North Idaho

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