Her Recession: Women and Children’s Free Restaurant provides 1 million meals during pandemic

SPOKANE, Wash. – It’s no secret more people are needing help with food and work. 4 News Now has shared multiple stories of that happening in Spokane County.

Women and Children’s Free Restaurant is one nonprofit in Spokane offering solutions, hoping to help as many people as it can. It’s currently breaking records doing that.

Every Tuesday and Wednesday there is a line at the restaurant, sometimes even stretching out to Division Street, of the nonprofit doing its curbside meal pickup.

Each person waiting in line to get food, there’s a story to tell of people trying to get through the hardships of the pandemic.

Nancy Robinson was in that line Tuesday, trying to get the food she needs for her mom and herself.

“I help take care of my mom and I share with her, and it would be a hardship if we couldn’t come here,” Robinson said.

She said she tries to come once a week, and this is the only place she knows of.

The pandemic forced Robinson to retire just a few weeks ago.

At 65 years old, she wanted to keep working, but it wasn’t safe for her to do so.

“I didn’t want to take a chance to bringing it home or give it to my mom or family,” she told 4 News Now.

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The Women and Children’s Free Restaurant continues to see an increased need, even nine months into the pandemic.

“I think unemployment is going to take a while to recover. That’s our biggest factor for us. We’re seeing a lot of first-timers coming to a food line to be truthful. Those people are going to need our services for quite a while,” said Lisa Diffley, the executive director of the nonprofit.

From curbside pickup to providing food for 20 shelters in the community, they’ve been breaking records.

In 2019, the restaurant served 95,000 meals to people in the community. It then decided to budget for 100,000 meals in 2020. However, because of the pandemic, it ended up serving more than 1 million meals.

“It hurts our heart to see this,” she said of the long line of people waiting for food.

For Cyndie, who did not want to provide her last name, she comes to the restaurant to help her save money on her food budget.

“It helps make ends meet. I don’t make a lot of money, I make some money, but this helps me extend my food bill,” she said.

For the next six weeks, women like Cyndie, Robinson and other families will get an extra meal, too. It’s thanks to the “Extend the Love” campaign.

A few local agencies, such as the Spokane Chapter of the Washington Hospitality Association, Washington Trust Bank, VisitSpokane and more, are giving 36 local restaurants $1,000 to put together meals for the nonprofit to give to families and women in need.

This campaign “extends” the help actress Sydney Sweeney did in December. She provided $12,000 to local restaurants to help feed those experiencing homelessness.

RELATED: Spokane actress feeds the homeless and supports local restaurants with $12,000 donation

“You always get great produce, plenty of canned foods, and like the extra meal today, that’s kind of nice. That’s very nice,” Robinson said.

Meals are given out every Tuesday and Wednesday for a few hours during the day The nonprofit does not ask for any paperwork. They just ask a woman be in the vehicle to pick up the food. For more information, visit their website here.

“We’re looking forward to the days where families have what they need, but we’ll be there to partner with them and walk this journey with them until then,” Diffley said.

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