Author: Leah Horton

Last month, Second Harvest in Spokane had the distinct pleasure of hosting Feeding America Chief Executive Officer Claire Babineaux-Fontenot. While you may be aware that Second Harvest is a member of Feeding America, you may not know why or what it means for our neighbors facing food insecurity.

So what is Feeding America?

Feeding America is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. Its mission: Advance change in America by ensuring equitable access to nutritious food for all – in partnership with food banks, policymakers, supporters and the communities we serve.

The Feeding America network is comprised of 200 member food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs across the nation, each designated to serve a specific service area. Second Harvest is one of those 200 members. Spanning 26 counties in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, our service region is bordered by other Feeding America organizations, depicted below. We work together to fulfill Feeding America’s vision: an America where no one is hungry.

As the largest food bank in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, Second Harvest shares Feeding America’s commitment to ending hunger in our community by focusing on four main pillars:

  1. Food recovery and rescue – We work with a variety of partners to rescue safe, nutritious food that might otherwise be wasted, sharing it with those who need it.
  2. Foods that nourish – We focus on providing healthy, fresh food to those who may not have access to it, because they live in a food desert or the food is too expensive.
  3. Food safety – We are committed to upholding federal regulations and food industry best practices to ensure the food that our partner networks give to their communities meets the highest standards of food safety.
  4. Food security – We work to find ways for individuals and families to build food security into their futures.

Membership in the national Feeding America network expands Second Harvest’s ability to pool resources and serve more neighbors in need. Because of strong partnerships with neighboring Feeding America food banks, like Food Lifeline in Western Washington, we’re able to work with regional farmers, manufacturers and retailers to rescue large volumes of nutritious food that may otherwise end up in a landfill. We can also work with national corporate donors, like Walmart, AT&T or Enterprise Rent-A-Car in a unified way to raise funds that benefit Second Harvest’s local partner agencies. Addressing rural hunger is a top priority, and the national fuel subsidies provided by Feeding America help us stretch every donated dollar, so we can continue serving the most remote communities. Other benefits of membership include partnering with sibling organizations to lobby for local and national policy changes, gleaning best practices and sharing real-time data to better serve our neighbors experiencing hunger.

While Second Harvest is an organization that is governed locally by its own board of directors, we periodically receive visits from Feeding America staff members. These visits are always warmly welcomed and inspiring. During her recent visit, Babineaux-Fontenot met each member of our Spokane Distribution Center, learning what they do, how they work, and how Feeding America can support them in fulfilling our shared mission. She emphatically shared that visiting with local food banks is her favorite part of her role as CEO of Feeding America. When asked, “What do you love most about your job?” Babineaux-Fontenot told us, “I mean this sincerely, the work that you do is personal. I’m not speculating, it’s not theoretical – I know what you do makes a difference in people’s lives and what you do makes a difference in people’s lives I care desperately about, people like me who had to rely on public assistance in my lifetime. My favorite part is that I get to go around the country and say thank you to all of you.”

To learn more about Feeding America, click here.

To learn more about Claire Babineaux-Fontenot and to read her bio, click here.

Feeding Eastern Washington and North Idaho

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