Author: Elias Piña

Located next to Broadway Elementary, tucked away from the noise of I-90 traffic, the warehouse of Spokane Valley Partners can be heard playing music in the early morning hours as volunteers arrive to begin a day of sorting and distributing food to people of the Spokane Valley.

Beginning October this year, Spokane Valley Partners started their new hours of Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to serve more Spokane residents and remove appointment barriers. David Stone, who oversees the Programs & Services department, shared his insight on the change, “We wanted to be more accessible and reducing barriers, but most of all we wanted to give clients the flexibility and freedom to come as they are able within their schedule.” The expansion in hours has led to an increase of families and individuals served from 600 households in August 2021 to over 900 households as of November 2021.

Spokane Valley Partners Food Bank Manager Justin Carlile (right) and Second Harvest Program Director Elias Piña (right).

Food Bank Manager Justin Carlile has been with Spokane Valley Partners for just under two months and has already seen the positive impact that the food bank has on the community, particularly by the recent expansion of opening hours as well as experiencing a few memorable moments. “On my second day here, we had a kid who mentioned it was his birthday and I was able give him a small birthday cake we had.” Justin recalled, “Seeing his eyes light up was great!”

With the support of weekly Second Harvest deliveries and grocery rescue pickups, Spokane Valley Partners offers a variety of fresh produce, refrigerated items, bread, and canned goods. “Second Harvest has been crucial to our success,” Stone mentioned. “The relationship allows us to coordinate efforts regarding food distribution and inventory. Having such an engaged and flexible partner has enabled us to bring a new food bank manager up to speed quickly and comfortably.”

From their mobile food bank that can serve up to 150 families per distribution every Saturday, to their “Food for Thought” program that provides weekend meals to 500 students each week, Spokane Valley Partners offers a wide variety of services that also include a diaper bank, a clothing bank, and financial assistance for utilities.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has also altered the Spokane Valley Partners’ distribution style from a client choice grocery store to a pre-built cart of food offering a wide of a variety of fresh and shelf stable items while keeping families, staff, and volunteers safe. Many families and volunteers reminisce of the days when volunteers were able to walk shoppers through the food bank and help them fill their grocery carts. “We miss the interaction,” Carlile mentions, “but we are still doing what we need to while keeping everyone safe.” The staff looks forward to the what the future can hold for their food bank, such as starting cooking classes in the kitchen.

Spokane Valley Partners is grateful to be open five days a week and provide food assistance with the help of their volunteers who help make it happen. Stone says, “We could not pull off all that we do without the large core of volunteers that helps us out each and every day. I am always amazed at how much time, effort, and generosity our volunteers show.”

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