Northwest Harvest/EMM Programs
Statewide Food Distribution, our primary program, provides about 700,000 services to hungry people every month throughout Washington, up from 500,000 services prior to 2008. Our broad outreach includes underserved urban neighborhoods and rural communities where people otherwise would go hungry. Our menu emphasizes good nutrition because many vulnerable children, seniors and families have poor access to healthy foods. Fruits and vegetables make up two-thirds of the food we distribute, in addition to lean proteins, healthy grains, and nutritious staples.
Cherry Street Food Bank, Washington’s busiest, serves up to 5,000 people per week near downtown Seattle. On full-service days Cherry Street distributes fresh produce and varied staple foods, and offers optional Meals-in-a-Bag for homeless and other clients needing take-out lunch instead of groceries. On Thursdays Cherry Street’s Baby Day Program serves more than 150 families per week with formula, diapers, and foods for children age 0-5.
Three Squares, our children’s food backpack program, serves 43 high-need schools in Seattle and 7 other districts. Participating students receive take-home food for three meals a day on weekends or school breaks. Each school identifies the 25 neediest children and delivers food while maintaining students’ privacy. Northwest Harvest provides child-friendly food (nutritious, shelf-stable, appealing, easy to prepare). Volunteers from local businesses or nonprofits help prepare the backpacks.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Despite a fifth year of economic challenges, 2012 was a record-breaking year of success in our work to meet Washington’s need for hunger relief. We served more people (up to 700,000 services per month), distributed more food (26.3 million pounds), and partnered with more food banks, meal programs and Three Squares schools (over 350) than at any time in our history, thanks to our strong purchasing power and agricultural community connections. We also distributed record-breaking amounts of fruits and vegetables: 18.3 million pounds or 70% of our total food. Thanks are due to 7,700 generous volunteers as well, for contributing an unprecedented 92,470 volunteer hours and making all of the above possible.
Washington State faces an ongoing high demand for food. As a result our greatest current need is cash for our $3.72 million Food Procurement Program, the single largest operating expense at Northwest Harvest. Rising numbers of people in need plus high food and fuel prices have more than tripled our Food Procurement budget since 2008. Northwest Harvest is unique in purchasing over one-third of the food we distribute, and we do so primarily to meet exceptionally high nutritional standards. By purchasing so much food we maintain continuous supplies of essential foods that may not be donated consistently: fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and key staples for hungry families. We also typically purchase the special program foods for babies, schoolchildren and homeless persons – our most vulnerable clients.