Second Harvest is rescuing food bound for waste

Second Harvest is rescuing food bound for waste.

By Julie Humphreys – community relations manager, Second Harvest


Second Harvest is the largest hunger-relief organization in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, serving 55,000 people every single week. It takes a lot of food donated by a multitude of businesses, organizations and individuals to feed that many people in need.

Through a program called Grocery Rescue, Second Harvest captures millions of pounds of food that would otherwise go to waste. The Grocery Rescue program began in 2004 and is now Second Harvest’s number-one source of donated food. Second Harvest partners with 26 retail chains (184 stores)—from corner stores to large supermarkets—and picks up food that either didn’t sell, is overstock, or most often is no longer retail worthy, but still perfectly good to eat.

“We are receiving beautiful fresh produce and other perishable foods that are close to expiration, still nutritious and often expensive, and getting them on the tables of people in need the next day,” says Owen Esperas, director of agency relations at Second Harvest.

Second Harvest drivers pick up food at a number of Spokane retailers. The food is then transported to the distribution center on Front Avenue, where local partner agencies pick up groceries that their food banks and meal sites need. On any given day, they may choose blueberries, asparagus, squash, organic greens, yogurt, eggs, and whole-grain breads. In most cases, partner agencies pick up food directly from retailers in their communities throughout the Inland Northwest and get it directly to the people who need it most, saving the cost of transportation and storage. All told, 12 million pounds of food was rescued from retail outlets last year ending up on the tables of hungry families and seniors.

From the retailers’ standpoint, Grocery Rescue is a win. They get to serve the community by being a steward of product that would otherwise be wasted. And from a business standpoint, Grocery Rescue helps reduce retailers’ disposal costs.

Dean Gasaway, store captain at Trader Joe’s on Spokane’s South Hill, says Grocery Rescue aligns with the company’s core values.

“We are a national chain of neighborhood stores, and we want to give back to our communities.”

The South Hill Trader Joe’s donates food directly to Union Gospel Mission, as well as to Southside Food Bank, which operates from the Southside Christian Church right across the street from the store. He and his employees get to see firsthand the effect of their donation.

“It feels good knowing the people receiving our product are taking it home and feeding their families.”