What to consider when planning food donations this year

The holiday season is the time when many inland residents of the Northwest ponder gift-giving. Ringtones and toy drives are physical reminders of adversity. But they are also seasonal, which means that people tend to give a lot in the last few months of the calendar year. The same goes for boards.

Second Harvest Inland Northwest, which serves as the “grocery bank for chalkboards,” receives donations from grocery stores, grocery drives, and farmers year round. But fall and early winter are the busiest times of the year for donations from local residents, according to Eric Williams, director of Second Harvest Community Partnerships. He says the group accepts many types of food, but not everything in your pantry is ideal candidate for a donation.

“There are a few basic rules,” said Williams. “Ask yourself: is it something I would eat? If not, it probably shouldn’t be on the board. We also need to follow the food safety guidelines. Therefore we cannot accept most of the homemade foods. “

The most urgently needed items on the table include canned fish and lean meat, healthy soups and stews, dried or canned beans, whole grain pasta and rice, muesli, canned fruit and vegetables, and peanut butter.

The group can also donate fresh vegetables, but “Frozen foods – not so much,” Williams said.

And donations aren’t just limited to food.

“We are often asked what better to give – food or money?” Said Williams. “And during the pandemic the answer is ‘yes’. These donations help us go out and buy … those things that help us provide meals for the people. “

Second Harvest operates warehouses in Pasco and Spokane that help keep the groceries in stock in store. Still, this year’s supply and delivery issues, coupled with drought-related agricultural issues, are limiting the group’s ability to stock 13,500 Thanksgiving dinner boxes at two drive-through events in Yakima and Spokane this week, Williams said.

“We had a hell of a time and couldn’t get yams,” said Williams. “Lots of people like having yams in their Thanksgiving dinner and I’ll be damned there was a yam shortage.”

This year olives replaced the missing yams. They have an entirely different taste profile, but Williams says olives are nutritious, pack well in the cartons, and make a great accompaniment to dinner.

Second Harvest is still grappling with higher demand, partly caused by job losses and other economic problems over the past two years. In 2019, Second Harvest was handing out 28 million meals, Williams said. In 2020 that was almost 45 million meals. This year, too, high demand is expected.

“Food insecurity is a problem. After the economy has recovered and started going well, it will take several months for food security to really catch up, ”said Williams. “So there will be a lot of people coming through the holidays who need [food aid]. “

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