A Pacific Northwest agricultural equipment dealer hopes to help families in need again this year through its affiliation with the annual Dump Hunger food drive.
The Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum will serve as a drop-off point for Dump Hunger, which is spearheaded at the events each year by Western States Equipment Co.
Annette Gilbertson, Western States credit analyst, said the drive is noteworthy because it starts at the beginning of the year.
“Everybody contributes for the holidays and is generous, but as soon as the holidays are over, contributions slow down tremendously and the need is still there,” she said. “We help the pantries out.”
Dump Hunger runs from Jan. 6 through Feb. 10.
Rod Wieber, chief resource officer for Second Harvest, a food bank in Spokane, said the drive comes at an important part of the year, when food bank lines are long and need is still high.
“Giving is not always top of mind,” he said.
Dump Hunger drive partners like Western States, Albertsons and Wells Fargo have done a “tremendous” job of recognizing that hunger remains a need, Wieber said.
“Over the last few years, the economy has certainly challenged many households,” he said.
Reductions in food stamp programs that began Nov. 1 have created additional challenges, he said.
“For the average household of four that was relying on food stamps, that’s now 15 more missing meals a month with those cuts that went into effect,” he said. “To have food resources available in your local community is just important for them.”
The program began with the goal of raising a dump truck full of food, or roughly 75,000 pounds of food.
Every year, the program has added another dump truck to its goal.
Over five years, the drive has collected 2.7 million pounds of food.
This year, the program’s sixth, the goal is to fill six dump trucks with food, roughly 450,000 pounds. Last year, the drive far exceeded the goal, raising 769,000 pounds of food.
Each dollar donated is counted as the equivalent of five pounds of food, Gilbertson said. While food donations are welcome, “the money makes a bigger difference,” she said, noting partners like the Idaho Food Bank and Second Harvest have more buying power than individuals.
The program reaches out to schools, community events and grocery stores in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.
“We’re trying to help out the communities in which we serve,” she said. “The people who have food on their table want to help those people in need, and we’re a vessel for them to go through.”
Wieber said the Spokane Ag Expo is an important venue.
“We’re hitting a market that’s very important,” he said. “The people attending (the Expo) are the folks that grow the food, and a lot of those people are the ones that are donating perishable, healthy, nutritious produce to us throughout the year.”