Winter had arrived with a chilly gust in west Spokane Valley when the Millwood Presbyterian Community Church launched a monthly food distribution in a parking lot off Argonne Road last year.
Beyond the brisk weather of November, Joan Harris recalls the event having an insulating effect on those who participated.
“It was really cold, but it warmed my heart to know that we were helping someone else,” said Harris, who has attended the church for 47 years.
The idea for the free distribution began last summer, according to Pastor Craig Goodwin. For over a year now, the church and Second Harvest of the Inland Northwest have sponsored the allocation on the second Friday of each month – rain or shine, sleet or snow.
“We’re only one part of a larger community effort,” said Goodwin.
Last Friday, over 200 people showed up to collect bags full of potatoes, onions, tomatoes and other fresh food. Jason Clark, president and CEO of Second Harvest, said Washington farmers have stepped up as critical contributors to the statewide cause. He estimated that close to 70 percent of Second Harvest’s inventory now consists of fresh produce.
“We’ve seen a big increase in the amount of perishables,” Clark said.
The monthly event is Millwood is one of nearly 150 mobile food banks that Second Harvest facilitates throughout the state. The program began four years ago as the economy began to falter. Clark said efforts like the one in Millwood provide important supplemental food to those in need.
“To their credit, this church has made a difference because they decided to help,” he said.
While Second Harvest provides a driver and refrigerated truck, most of the work is done by volunteers. Last Friday, close to 30 people, including representatives from the church, West Valley High School and the Millwood community, donated time before, during and after the noon to 2 p.m. distribution. Employees from Fred Meyer have also assisted with the project as have other schools in the West Valley School District.
“Volunteers are really a key to the success of something like this,” Clark said. “It’s heartening to see people in the community and food industry step up and support this cause.”
Harris was among several volunteers who helped pass out flyers alerting residents of the program. She said those who heard about it were grateful to know of the opportunity for supplemental food. Most food banks set a limit of one collection per month for local households.
“One woman said, ‘Thank you so much for letting us know about this,’” Harris said.
Since last year, the church has raised $6,000 in support of the mobile food bank. This spring, the church began sponsorship of a community garden on Argonne Road, site of an old pumpkin patch. Out of the 30 plots, 10 have been set aside to grow food for Second Harvest. This summer and fall, the site generated some 500 pounds of vegetables for the cause.
“Every bit helps,” Goodwin said. “It’s about contributing to the community.”