If you happen to notice a bumper crop of fruits and vegetables sprouting up at local food banks these days, it probably has something to do with the new Northwest Harvest food distribution site in Spokane Valley.
The 13,500-square-foot warehouse opened officially in January, occupying Building 15 in an eastern corner of the Spokane Business and Industrial Park. Warehouse Manager Chuck Rigsby said the Seattle-based agency is “still in the process of setting things up.”
|Julie Delaney and Chuck Rigsby of Northwest Harvest have helped launch the agency’s new food distribution warehouse in the Spokane Business and Industrial Park on Sullivan Road. The 13,500-square-foot space opened in January.
Photo by: Craig Howard
NW Harvest has had a presence in the greater Spokane area since 2005, delivering semi-trucks of food on a monthly basis from its central storage site in Kent. Statewide, the organization provides food to 300 food banks and nonprofit kitchens, totaling some 23 million pounds last year alone.
Julie Delaney, a procurement specialist for NW Harvest, said the addition of a Spokane warehouse will allow the agency to store donations that were once shipped to Yakima or Kent to be sorted and boxed.
“Before, you’d have situations where the food banks in Spokane couldn’t store the food because they didn’t have space,” Delaney said. “Now we can send a truckload here.”
Delaney was hired in December 2008 to begin the process of adding to NW Harvest’s list of benefactors. In the past year-and-a-half, she has brought on nine new sponsors in areas like Wenatchee, Quincy and Moses Lake.
“The agricultural industry in Washington is phenomenal,” Delaney said. “At the same time, we’re a resource for them, so the food doesn’t go to waste.”
Delaney said NW Harvest does not see the new site presenting any competitive conflict with established Eastern Washington entities like Second Harvest.
“Second Harvest has a great reputation here,” Delaney said. “We think it’s great that we’re both in the area as a complement to food banks. We brought this warehouse here to bring more food into the area, not to divert food from going into the system.”
NW Harvest originated in Seattle 43 years ago after a group of church leaders rallied to launch a centralized nonprofit entity that would provide food to low-income residents. The agency remains dedicated to the distribution of nutritious items not always in abundance at many food banks. Around 70 percent of the agency’s donated food consists of fruits and vegetables. In addition to working with dozens of Washington farms and orchards, NW Harvest collaborates with National Frozen Foods, one of the leading producers of frozen vegetables.
“We’re talking about apples, onions, carrots, potatoes and a variety of other ag products,” Delaney said. “We want to make sure the food we send out to food banks is a consistently nutritious menu.”
At the Spokane Valley Partners Food Bank, executive director Barbara Bennett said NW Harvest’s impact is being felt already.
“Last month, we received some wonderful things,” Bennett said. “We got frozen corn and peas, rice, oats, red beans and pasta, even some ground turkey. Having the warehouse here will mean that much more diversity in the food we can offer.”
Last year, NW Harvest provided food to nearly 11,000 clients in Spokane County on a monthly basis. The agency’s 2009 total food distribution in the greater Spokane area came to 540,537 pounds. With the addition of the warehouse, the count over the past three months is already at 90,000 pounds with the Valley Food Bank receiving around 17,000.
NW Harvest will team up once again with KHQ-TV for the annual Q-6 Food Drive beginning in June. Delaney said that while food banks and organizations like NW Harvest are thankful for donations made during the holiday season, “the need for food is year-round.”
“Most people think about donating food during November and December,” Delaney said. “But it’s important to take a look at that when things slow down.”
Rigsby said the warehouse is in the process of recruiting volunteers to help sort and box donations that are currently being shipped out to over a dozen local sites including women, infant and children (WIC) center, Shalom Ministries and Serve Spokane.
“We rely more on volunteers than paid staff,” Rigsby said.
Want to know more?
To learn more about Northwest Harvest, call 294-2172 or visit www.northwestharvest.org.