CREATING VARIETY AT SECOND HARVEST

Author: Eric Williams

The food banking world has changed dramatically over the past couple of years, but one thing remains constant: The people we serve want more variety. That’s not a bad thing, rather it’s human nature. But it’s also one of the most vexing challenges we face daily at Second Harvest.

And it’s a challenge we work very hard to meet. But some realities get in the way.

First, in a given year nearly 95 percent of the food we distribute to hungry folks is donated. Farmers literally deliver semitruck loads of produce to our docks in Pasco and Spokane. Grocery stores provide tons of food through our grocery rescue program. Backyard gardeners drop off sacksful of vegetables, and groups and organizations hold food drives to help restock our warehouses. Sometimes there are flukes – late spring of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard, a pallet of frozen cherries landed at our Spokane doorstep.

We are extremely fortunate to be in one of the world’s most bountiful food regions, which translates into us receiving semi loads of apples, potatoes, lentils and onions. I’m reminded by colleagues that our sister food banks in places like New York City and Detroit don’t have that benefit. Still, it remains a fact that being so reliant on donations somewhat constrains the selections we can share.

On the other hand, food drive collections, backyard garden harvests and rescued groceries do enhance the variety of what we can distribute to those in need. And over the past several months, hard work by our supply chain team, coupled with a bit of good fortune, has netted us some nice prizes. Our sister Feeding America food bank in Arizona sent us a semi load of citrus fruit a few weeks back. We’ve had robust amounts of gorgeous tomatoes, tasty yellow peppers and wonderful pears.

Last week, our volunteers were sorting fresh strawberries (we make sure to cull out any showing the slightest sign of mold). Joe Guerrinha, who volunteers once or more every week and has helped us sort produce for years, said it’s the first time he’s ever seen strawberries donated.

Working at Second Harvest, we all gain additional appreciation for food and the many aspects it brings to our lives. Like you, we love variety; we also recognize that budget and other factors present limitations – limitations we try daily to overcome in hopes of adding a bit of spice and joy to the people we serve.

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