AGENCY SPOTLIGHT: UPPER VALLEY MEND
Author: Elias Piña
As we approach the end of Heart Health Month, we’d like to share the story of one of our partner agencies that has been able to continue encouraging clients to make healthy choice through their pantry.
Most folks who visit the Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth, Washington, surrounded by picturesque alpine views and the Wenatchee River, may be unaware of Upper Valley MEND or the work that is happening at their food pantry, the Community Cupboard. The staff at Upper Valley MEND’s pantry have been able to maintain their grocery store model that allows shoppers to select nutritious ingredients like fresh produce to encourage healthy eating. But they also go through lengths outside of the pantry doors to provide that produce.
“One of Upper Valley MEND’s core beliefs is that every child and adult should have access to high quality food to nourish their body and mind”, says food pantry manager, Bob Mark, “We’re confident that supporting a healthy diet helps to support a healthy community”.
With support from Second Harvest’s Grocery Rescue program, Mark has been able to pick up close to 50,000 pounds from their local Safeway to stock the shelves of the pantry. Although the work doesn’t just stop there.
Mark and his staff believe that every child and adult should have access to high quality food to promote a healthy diet. This is why they have also created a program called Community Harvest where volunteers glean fruits and vegetables from farms, orchards or backyard gardens to provide a multitude of nutritious options. This program helps support not only Upper Valley MEND’s pantry, but also other food pantries in the region with seasonal produce with average harvest of about 40,000 pounds. Additionally, they partner with Farm2FoodPantry to purchase directly from local farms.
Mark, who has been with the pantry for 13 years, has been grateful to be a part of an organization that helps meet their community needs through the food pantry, health care services, and economic assistance. “I truly believe that a strong part of our human nature is to be of service to others, and I am grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to do that in my community for so many years. It just feels good”.
Although faced with a few challenges since the start of the pandemic, Mark and his staff were able to pivot quickly without much interruption to their shopping model. “Like everyone else, we’ve had to make some adjustments throughout this pandemic.”, says Mark, “Fortunately, we’ve been able to maintain the element of choice with our different food bank model, which our shoppers have really appreciated.”
Making the healthy choice can be a challenge, but Upper Valley MEND’s pantry has found a way to provide a variety of nutritious options for their shoppers to enjoy and have a healthy diet.
“Together, these programs allow us to maintain a wide variety of fresh, often times local, and always healthy options for our food bank shoppers.”