Spokane families continue to struggle as critical food delivery program ends

SPOKANE, Wash. — It’s a struggle thousands of families are going through. Food insecurity means sometimes they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. 

The end of a food delivery program in Spokane isn’t helping the problem. 

It was funded by CARES Act money approved by County commissioners. Boxes of food were delivered to front doors, giving about 2,000 families meals to last them a week. Without the program, organizers say more people will go hungry. 

The pandemic has played the biggest role when it comes to food insecurity. 

According to Feeding America, almost 65,000 people in Spokane County suffered from food insecurity in 2018. 

2020 isn’t finalized, though it’s expected to be a little more than 86,000 people. 

The reality is something no one should have to go through. 

Maegan Harris, her son, Vincent, and boyfriend, Kyle Benda have been struggling since March. 

“It just seems like a lot of things have just gone downhill since the pandemic,” said Harris. 

Harris is immunocompromised and Benda got laid off. The Food Security Coalition Program made it a little easier to handle. 

“We don’t know how else we would do it,” said Harris. “I can’t physically go to food banks.”

They don’t have transportation, and she pays to get her groceries delivered. Harris has WIC and food stamp benefits, but it only gets them so far.

Organizations came together in December and delivered more than 80,000 pounds of food. It was a temporary program. 

“It definitely needs to be refunded,” said Julie Garcia with Jewels Helping Hands. “We’re still getting phone calls and e-mails about where to access food.” 

They helped about 2,000 families. The coalition said 10,000 pounds of food boxes went to homebound seniors.

“It was so much relief just being able to be like, oh my gosh someone came and helped me. I don’t have to figure it out on my own,” said Harris. 

1,330 families told the coalition why they needed food delivery. About half say they simply can’t afford it. Others said they don’t have transportation or can’t get to a food bank when they’re open. 

Some families even told the coalition they had to survive a month on beans, rice and bread.

“Since we were able to provide this food delivery, we were able to offset people struggling to pay their utilities, struggling to pay their rent,” said Holly Chilinski with Specialty Mobile Services. 

Harris says she didn’t think twice about asking the coalition for food, and wants other families to know it’s okay to say “I need help.” 

“It’s a terrifying time that we’re in,” said Harris. “We’re unsure and all we have is each other and so we really need to rely on one another and not be ashamed to ask for help.” 

The Coalition and County are still trying to figure out money for the program.

There are several resources you can visit for help including 2nd Harvest, the state Department of Social and Health Services, and several food banks.

The University of Washington is doing a statewide food security survey to “monitor the impacts of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak on food security, food assistance, economic well-being, and prospects for economic recovery in Washington (WA) State.” If more people from Spokane participate, Chilinski said a separate report for Spokane County will be created.

You can find the survey here.