Second Harvest eases hunger

by Kelli Raines

The Second Harvest volunteer reached down into the bin filled with hundreds of potatoes. Lifting out two, he put them in a cardboard box beside him. About 15 other volunteers stood filling boxes in the warehouse. By the end of the night, 225 boxes were filled with potatoes. From these packed boxes, 1,700 people would be fed.

Forty years ago, Second Harvest began as a food bank called Spokane Food Bank. Since then, it has gone through multiple name changes and is now known as Second Harvest. Second Harvest’s mission is to bring community resources together to feed people in need through empowerment, education and partnerships. This includes working with food banks, special programs, food mill sites and putting on special events and activities to pack and handout food.

“We are striving to ease hunger,” said Maggie Reinhardt, support specialist at Second Harvest and senior Gonzaga University student. “We know we can’t solve it all, but we’ll do what we can to help ease the problem. And there is a great need in Spokane. Ideally, we would want hunger to end, and we would not be in business.”

Second Harvest has been located at 1234 East Front Ave. in Spokane for the past 20 years. This year it is receiving a face lift as expansion is needed to support its growth.

“We are building a volunteer center dedicated to pushing products out,” said Christine Tabat, redistribution and warehouse supervisor. “It will help the process become quicker, more thorough and cleaner.”

Tabat explained there will be a conveyor belt that will make it easier for volunteers and employees to check and pack produce. The remodel should be completed January 2012.

Second Harvest has many volunteer opportunities for members of the Spokane community. Once a month, Second Harvest takes food to low income seniors over the age of 60. Also, Second Harvest fills backpacks with healthy food for students from kindergarten to junior high who may not be receiving adequate meals at home. Visiting Second Harvest’s website is the best way to find and sign up for these opportunities.

One such opportunity is called Help the Hungry Sort Night, a volunteer event that Second Harvest hosts multiple times per week. Volunteers come into the warehouse and help sort and pack food for two hours. On Sept. 26, volunteers at Help the Hungry Sort Night sorted and packed potatoes from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. In that two hour time frame, volunteers packed food for 1,700 people to have a meal.

“Don’t be afraid of work and getting dirty,” Reinhardt said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, as long as you’re willing to get involved in the night’s activity. I highly recommend volunteering. You put in what you want.”

Stephanie Riley, a 2011 graduate of Whitworth University, and her husband Joe Riley, senior nursing student at WSU Spokane through the Whitworth and WSU nursing program, helped sort and box potatoes Monday evening.

“This is our first time volunteering for Second Harvest,” Joe Riley said. “We’re planning on coming a couple more times this fall.”

The newly married couple wanted a meaningful way to spend time together.

“We have a lot of free time and ended up watching TV, so we thought we’d start volunteering instead,” said Stephanie Riley.

Joe Riley said volunteering is a fun and rewarding activity to do with friends. And it looks good on a resume, although this should not be the main reason for volunteering.

“It’s a whole lot better than sitting around,” Joe Riley said.

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