VolunBeer helps take a bite out of hunger



Staff Reporter, Cheney Free Press


Pick a week and the jury of studies is either in or out on the benefits of any number of products or activities.

On a rotating basis — whose frequency varies as widely as results of studies presented — data will tell us that beer or wine is either good or bad for us.

No data comes to mind recently on any benefits of hard alcohol, but periodically there's the story of someone who turns 100 and claims their longevity is due in part to an occasional nip of whiskey.

But last week, nearly 50 people certainly came away with a boost to their mental health — and arguably physical well being — after taking part in a unique fundraising and work activity at Second Harvest Food Bank.

A catchy title, “VolunBeer,” was enticing enough for me to pay $25 for the honor to don hair and beard nets, plus surgical gloves, and fill bags of dried apples. Another part of the crew bagged bread, jams and peanut butter, providing lunchtime nutrition.

Two cases of 50 bags apiece later, the session was finished and off we went to the kitchen to do beer tasting courtesy of Pullman brewer, Paradise Creek, and sampling of side dishes prepared with the help of their beer.

“Our team was dreaming up new ways to involve people in our mission,” Julie Humphreys, community relations director at Second Harvest wrote in an email. “We have great relationships with area breweries and it felt like a good way to marry interest in local volunteering with local brewing…hence VolunBeer.”

The first VolunBeer event took place this past December with Icicle Brewing followed by California’s Lagunitas Brewing. Each VolunBeer can accommodate limited numbers of volunteers so register early. The next  takes place Thursday, April 19 with partner Black Label Brewing.

But Second Harvest knows not everyone is a beer lover so they have partnered with Dry Fly Distilling for VolunTini on April 26, and then Ste. Michelle Winery for VolunVino, May 3.

“We did our first VolunVino event in February with Townshend,” Humphreys said. “We are tickled that people really seem to like the idea and these events have been selling out.”

Second Harvest has been leading the hunger-relief network in the region since 1971 and distributes over 2 million pounds of free food each month helping feed 55,000 people per week. They service 26 counties in Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, providing food at no cost to about 250 community food banks.

“Over the past five events, 22,845 pounds have been sorted,” Chris Houglum, director of donor relations said. That equates to over 19,000 meals, not including what was accomplished last week.

Community outreach for Second Harvest extended to the streets of downtown Spokane last Saturday where donations of both food and cash were collected at the 40th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The sponsoring Friendly Sons of St. Patrick have partnered with Second Harvest since 2007. Along with funds and food collected along the parade route, the organization donates $1,000 each year. All totaled, that event was responsible for an estimated 3,000 meals.

All the recent activity was very appropriate considering March is National Nutrition Month.

“No one wants to be at the food bank and receiving assistance, but people need that at different times and for different reasons,” Houglum said.

As with any charity, there are those who never like to have their hand out. But it sure feels good to lend your hand and bend an elbow for those that do.

Paul Delaney can be reached at pdelaney@cheneyfreepress.com.


For further information on Second Harvest volunteer opportunities, visit www.secondharvestkitchen.org or call (509) 534-6678.