The holidays are behind us and we are back into our daily routines. But for many, the loneliness and struggles that come with the holiday season do not go away when the calendar turns to a new year. Fortunately for those in rural North Idaho, there are not only our local food banks but also Second Harvest’s Mobile Market, a refrigerated truck filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meat, bread, cereal and other food, that travels to areas outside of Spokane where there is a high-need community.
The Mobile Market sets up in various places in communities—a church parking lot, school or community center—and with the help of volunteers it will distribute up to 8,000 pounds of food to as many as 250 households.
While Second Harvest is based out of Spokane, it reaches families in 26 different counties, fulfilling a need as far away as Kennewick, Washington, and Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Its mission is simple—Fighting hunger, feeding hope: Second Harvest brings community resources together to feed people in need through empowerment, education and partnerships.
According to Julie Humphreys, the community relations manager at Second Harvest, the Mobile Market sometimes brings along crockpots and cooking skillets, and the nutrition ambassadors will talk to folks about cooking and hand out samples. “We pair the recipes with the foods we are handing out that day,” said Humphries. “We feed up to 250 families, so the number of people we can distribute nutrition education to is just that.”
The Mobile Market program dates back to 2006 but has experienced its biggest growth over the past two years. “We now do almost 500 a year in Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho,” said Humphreys.
Last year, the Mobile Market visited Bonner and Boundary counties on 10 different occasions. “That area is definitely a target for us,” said Humphreys.
In Boundary County, Community Action Partnership is home to the local Food Bank and relies a great deal on Second Harvest.
“Second Harvest has been an immense treasure to Bonners Ferry,” said Liz Bigsby, community engagement liaison at Community Action Partnership, who praises the efforts of the Spokane-based organization and the people with whom she deals from there.
Bonners Ferry Food Bank, along with the local senior center, are the two beneficiaries in Bonners Ferry of Second Harvest’s grocery rescue program.
Each year approximately 40 percent of the food produced for people to eat in the U.S. goes to waste. Through the grocery rescue program, Second Harvest Food Bank works to get some of that food into the hands of those who need it. The program is designed to recover a variety of nutritious foods from local grocery stores for neighborhood food pantries and meal programs.
“Through the grocery rescue program we receive food such as produce, dairy and frozen foods,” said Bigsby. “Many things to help balance what is offered on our shelves.”
Second Harvest provides up to 600 to 800 pounds of food three times a week to the Bonners Ferry Food Bank. While Safeway is the store that partners with Second Harvest for the grocery rescue program, Bigsby said that she also receives donations from the local Super 1 store.
“Second Harvest also provides a palette of food each month that our volunteer drivers pick up in Sandpoint,” said Bigsby.
Unfortunately the need is great with Bonners Ferry Food Bank serving an average of 500 people each month; Bigsby said they had an unusually high demand in January with 750 people served.
In addition to the food provided by Second Harvest, Bonners Ferry Food Bank also assembles food boxes for its clients who are able to pick up three throughout the year. Bigsby said that there is not currently any one specific item that they are in need of but did emphasize that she always wants to make sure each family has a nice package of meat in their food box.
When one thinks of the food bank, they are inclined to focus on just that—food. But Bigsby said they provide much more than that. “If you’re struggling to put a meal on the table, you’re likely struggling with things like laundry detergent, dish soap and personal care items. We carry those things as well.”
But it is not just donations that the Bonners Ferry Food Bank relies upon; it is the volunteers who give of their time each month. Bigsby said she constantly receives inquiries about volunteering. One student recently needed to do some volunteer work for a scholarship; Bigsby eagerly accepted the offer of help.
“We’ve had such tremendous support through the community,” said Bigsby. “I’m very blessed”
Whether it is seniors on a fixed income, families whose parents are unemployed or underemployed, or people who just need a helping hand, the food banks see people from all walks of life.
So next time you are at the store, why not put a little extra in your cart and swing by the food bank on your way home—make the “season of giving” a year-round tradition. You will feel as blessed as Liz Bigsby.
“I’m privileged to have this job,” she said. “I just love this community.”
For more information on Second Harvest Mobile Markets, visit 2-Harvest.org.
If you are interested in volunteering, donating or in need of services from Bonners Ferry Food Bank, visit them at 6665 Main Street in Bonners Ferry or call them at 208.267.3663. Hours are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 9am to noon and 1 to 4pm.