Sorting machine will help double Second Harvest's capacity

SPOKANE, Wash. - Second Harvest Food Bank has a new sorting machine which will help it feed more hungry people across the Inland Northwest.

Every year the food bank gets millions of pounds of fresh fruit and produce from area growers, but in year's past they've also had to turn down millions of pounds because they don't have the capacity to handle it.

Now that's changed after the food bank installed a new bulk produce sorting line.

"We're really looking at doubling or tripling our efficiency with this," Second Harvest President and CEO Jason Clark said.

second harvest sorting machine

Clark says the new machine can move hundreds of apples at a time. First a lift rolls the fruits or vegetables on a conveyer belt, then volunteers remove damaged or spoiled ones and then more volunteers place them in boxes for distribution to local food banks and meal programs.

In the past volunteers would have to circle large wooden bins and hand select them; now with the conveyer belt they're able to stand in a climate controlled room and have the fruit roll in front of them, cutting down the sorting time dramatically.

"Instead of processing seven million pounds of produce each year, we have the capacity to handle 15 million or more," Clark said, adding that the new sorter will help with a growing demand.

"We're looking at just over a 44 percent increase over 4 years ago. And we expect it to stay there for several years," he added.

Last year Second Harvest supplied more than 21 million pounds of food to area food banks but they say the need it close to 30 million pounds. Now, with the new conveyer belt, they're going to be closer to reaching the actual need.