Growing Food Partnerships – August 4
Author: Carrie Perry
You probably already know that Second Harvest distributes food to people facing hunger in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, but do you know how much food? What types of food or where do we get it? In fiscal year 2023, Second Harvest sourced over 32 million pounds of food, equating to close to 1,000 full semitrailers!
Second Harvest is one of 199 Feeding America partner food banks across our country. All the organizations are doing similar work sourcing food and distributing it to people facing hunger via a network of partner agencies and direct service programs. However, the types of food sources and methods of acquiring the food vary for each organization based on their guiding philosophies. Food banks located in food deserts are often forced to utilize a larger portion of their budget to purchase and transport food to them.
The food industry is a low-margin, high-volume, fast-moving sector. Post-pandemic supply chain issues and rising food prices are continuing challenges. These factors are all obstacles for food bank food-sourcing teams. While Second Harvest faces the same issues, we are fortunate that the areas surrounding our distribution centers in Spokane and Pasco are rich with food resources— allowing us to focus our efforts on maximizing every dollar spent obtaining a nutritious and diverse food stream.
Our rich agriculture region allows us to source locally grown products that make up over half of our food resources. We utilize as much as possible to feed neighbors in our region who are experiencing food insecurity, then share a large portion with our Feeding America partners in the Pacific Northwest and beyond to help add variety to their food supplies. While donated fresh agricultural products make up the majority of our food, we also distribute protein, dairy, bread, frozen, and shelf-stable foods to provide nutritional balance. These products come from local processors and manufacturers, wholesale distributors, shippers, retail grocery stores, government programs, and community food drives. While most items are donated, we reserve a very small portion of our annual budget to purchase shelf-stable dry goods to round out our overall nutrition and to supply our Bite2Go weekend food supply program for kids.
Of all food sourced last fiscal year, over 20 million pounds was picked up by Second Harvest or delivered by the food donor to one of our distribution centers for processing and redistribution. Our Grocery Rescue program sourced another 12 million pounds of nutritious food from our retail grocery partners that went directly to our partner agencies. Connecting local retailers to the agencies feeding people allows the donated food to be redistributed to community members very quickly. This amazing program not only fights hunger but also eliminates food waste.
Finding, processing and distributing this amount of food is a messy, imperfect process. We know that the cost of food is high and will most likely continue to increase, so we cannot rely much on purchasing food. However, Second Harvest is able to do the work by building lasting, “all in” relationships with our food industry partners to generate food donations, in-kind donations and cash contributions. We also continually look for additional types of excess, unmarketable food to supplement our supply. We are extremely grateful for our abundance of local resources and generosity that allows us to feed our communities.
To learn more about donating food to Second Harvest, please visit: https://2-harvest.org/givefood/.