Second Harvest ‘coping’ amid reports of Washington food bank shortages

SPOKANE, Wash. — It’s getting harder to feed people in need.

Food banks in the state are expected to face a serious shortage of food soon. So many people require help, that it’s straining the system. 

In a report dated March 27, put together by the State Department of Military and Emergency Operations Center, it says “food banks reported critical shortage of food” and “boxes for packaging meals.”

RELATED: State report reveals concern for Washington food bank supply in wake of COVID-19 crisis

On another page, it says “Food banks expect a significant gap in food supply across the whole system by mid April… The burn rate and demand are rising sharply.” 

“Statewide, the preliminary estimate is that there is an additional $10 million a week need in our state. I believe those numbers will increase,” said State Rep Marcus Riccelli.

Riccelli is helping feed people. He started a group called Spokane Food Fighters. They’re delivering free food to people who need it, partnering with restaurants and organizations like Second Harvest to provide that nutrition. 

“Food is health and food is a public health issue and should be included in our overall efforts in this pandemic. We have to continue to remain focus on food continuity in our community and in our state,” Riccelli said.

RELATED: Spokane Food Fighters aim to help families who are food insecure

Second Harvest is passing out food as fast as it’s coming in. 

“It is an extraordinary challenge with the number of people turning to food banks, many for the first time,” said Drew Meuer, with Second Harvest.

Meuer said their partner agencies, like the Salvation Army, are seeing a 30 to 50 percent increase in people coming in to get assistance.

RELATED: Salvation Army expanding services during COVID-19 pandemic

It’s hard to meet the demand when it’s starting to surpass supply. It’s even more difficult when Second Harvest’s supply chain is also being disrupted because of the pandemic.

“Our food sourcing team is working really hard to unlock new sources of donated food and we’re even exploring purchasing food on an as needed basis,” said Meuer.

Places are also in need of more volunteers, and other supplies like boxes, to put food in.

“Our boxes are always a challenge for us, having a container to pack products in. Excess cardboard is valuable. Because we’re distributing to so many partners, we really need large volumes of uniform boxes,” Meuer said.

Right now, Second Harvest says it’s coping, doing what it can to continue to help families and others in need.

“We’re just trying to take it a week at a time, because it seems like any plan we lay out further than that, we have to go back to the drawing board,” Meuer said.

Every day, situations and information changes with the coronavirus. Since the stay-at-home order was extended to May 4, it’s made operations a little more difficult.

“We would absolutely continue to see significant challenges related to our response should the stay home order be extended again,” Meuer said.

You can help by donating financially, your time or food to Spokane Food Fighters or Second Harvest.

For those who are looking for food assistance, the Food Continuity Task Force, a group Riccelli is a part of, has created a map to help Spokane residents find the closest place for them to get food. You can find that here.