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Spokane food bank worries about its ability to feed people during holiday season

2nd Harvest warehouse
Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio
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The warehouses at Spokane's 2nd Harvest Food Bank aren't well stocked as the holiday season begins.

Several factors lead to lowered money and food donations.

Spokane’s 2nd Harvest Food Bank will hold its annual turkey drive on Tuesday.

The organization will hand out 11,000 Thanksgiving dinner boxes during a day-long, drive-through event at the Spokane County Fairgrounds. After that, for the rest of the holiday season, the food bank worries it won’t be able to satisfy the growing demand for food.

Donations of both money and food are down. There are several reasons. One major food supplier, California, battled a drought this year and exported less. To complicate things, fertilizer suppliers such as China and Ukraine also exported less. On the consumer donor side, “It’s higher demand, higher prices. Everybody knows that food’s up, what, 10, 11, 12% this year. Higher demand, higher prices and then less availability of food. The farmers are very generous, but when their crops are down, they have less to donate," Williams said.

That leaves 2nd Harvest with a need for donations as the holiday season begins.

“We’re often asked which is a better donation: money or food, and today, the answer is yes. We need money and we need food," said Eric Williams, 2nd Harvest’s community partnerships director.

He walks me through one of the organization’s warehouses. It looks relatively empty. The day before, volunteers removed the massive amount of food that was packed into the Thanksgiving boxes.

“On a typical day, this is full. That’s full. We need to figure out ways to replenish all of this," he said.

He says Second Harvest has good supplies of produce, but is running lower than usual on canned and other shelf-stable goods.

“Heading into winter, our produce supply will dwindle some, but even on that front, last year, we were getting a good amount from California. Well, California has had the drought, so all of those things conspire into increased demand, higher prices and less availability of food," he said.

One area of good fortune for Second Harvest: it was able to procure the number of turkeys it sought for the Thanksgiving boxes it’s giving away Tuesday. It ordered a month or two earlier than usual, all the way back in January.