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 Markets, 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. Some of the locations they visit in Bonner County include Clark Fork as well as Sandpoint at Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church on Pine Street.
In Bonner County, the Bonner Community Food Bank relies a great deal on Second Harvest. “Second Harvest’s monthly donations to our local food banks is greatly appreciated,” said Debbie Love, Bonner Community Food Bank’s executive director. “In January alone, they delivered 5,000 pounds of food to our food bank.”
Love adds that during the summer months, when inventory at Bonner Community Food Bank is especially low and children are out of school, she has a driver travel weekly to Spokane to pick up food from Second Harvest, especially fresh produce.
But it’s not just summer when local food banks’ inventory is low; there is a significant decrease in donations after the holidays.
“We are especially in need of staple items—proteins, pastas and dry goods, including peanut butter, canned means and beans,” said Love, who reports that the holidays were a huge success but they are in need of donations at this time.
“We met our goal of collecting 900 turkeys and served 750 families in our Priest River and Sandpoint locations at Thanksgiving,” she said. “We had excess to hand out at Christmas, and still, in January, we are giving away turkeys.”
In 2017, Love said the Bonner Community Food Bank served 46 percent of its clients five times or less. “That shows we are serving people in times of crisis,” she said.
First established by the Ministerial Association in 1980, the Bonner Community Food Bank does not receive any funds from the county, state or federal governments. They rely solely on donations and grants.
But it is not just donations that the Bonner Community Food Bank relies upon; it is the approximate 40 volunteers who give of their time each month. “We are always looking for more volunteers,” said Love.
Last summer, the Bonner Community Food Bank partnered with the Bonner County Coalition for Health and received funding through the national WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program. With the funds they received, they started a community garden onsite at the food bank. They had five raised beds and harvested 120 pounds of food last summer. “This summer we are adding five more beds,” said Love. “Volunteers help to maintain the garden, and our clients help with the harvest.”
Another way that the Bonner Community Food Bank partners with the community is through the Food for Our Children program. Together, the groups work with schools to identify chronically hungry children who could benefit from the Backpack Program. The Backpack Program sends backpacks home with children over the weekend to ensure they have healthy food when not in school. The Bonner Community Food Bank orders the food, coordinates the volunteers, identifies funding sources and advertises the program. It has benefited countless children in the community and is a blessing to those families it serves.
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.
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 Bonner Community Food Bank, visit them online at FoodBank83864.com or stop by at 1707 Culvers Drive, Sandpoint, Idaho 83864, 208.263.3663. Market hours are Monday through Friday, 9am to 2:30pm. (New Clients must check in before 2pm).