'We also need to help people in our local communities'
By MATTHEW WEAVER
A new program sponsored by Second Harvest asks Eastern Washington grain growers to help feed people in need.
Second Harvest, a Spokane hunger-relief food distribution center, launched the Washington Grain Growers Against Hunger program earlier this year.
When farmers sell their grain at their local elevator, they can designate a portion of it for Second Harvest, said Rod Wieber, the charity's chief resource officer. The elevator or co-op then sells the grain and sends the proceeds to Second Harvest.
Second Harvest uses the money to purchase perishable foods for distribution in addition to other growers' donations of pears, apples, onions and potatoes.
The program was inspired by conversations with local grain growers, Wieber said.
Bruce Nelson, who grows 6,000 acres of wheat near Farmington, was one of the growers who helped develop the program. Nelson said Second Harvest is one of the best ways to help.
"You get a lot more for the dollar than just the dollar value of the food," he said. "You may give them a dollar, but they can go buy a dollar and a half of food."
He believes it's important to help neighbors.
"We may be feeding the world, but we also need to help people in our local communities," he said.
Wieber said many local companies and stores donate bread, baking mixes and flours.
Second Harvest is waiting to see how the new program performs as farmers get through late harvest sales, Wieber said. The organization didn't set a financial goal for the first year.
Nelson would like to see the program generate $500,000 per year within the next two years.
"I just hope this takes hold and people start thinking about giving to Second Harvest when they sell their wheat," he said. "It will be a positive effect throughout all the community and to them themselves."
Second Harvest serves 200 food banks in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
Other food banks have developed similar programs, including Bushels for Betsy at the Oregon Food Bank and Our Neighbor's Daily Bread, a collaboration between the Montana Food Bank Network and Montana grain industry.