With commercial demand for wholesale food dramatically reduced during the pandemic, food producers have faced sometimes overwhelming surpluses, as well as lost income. At the same time, communities have been experiencing increased food insecurity as hungry families struggle with their own finances. Nationally, images of milk being dumped and crops plowed under just added to the suffering.
A new collaborative effort in Spokane, fueled by a $1.4 million USDA grant, aims to assist both food producers and local families. Here's how it works: wholesale food is sourced and purchased from local producers. Once a week, twenty-pound boxes containing fresh produce, dairy products and cooked meat — designed to feed a family of four for a week — are packed up by a team of volunteers, and the boxes are distributed through various networks in the Spokane area.
Local sourcing and packing for the Farmers to Families Food Box program is coordinated by Share Farm at their facilities in Liberty Lake. "For people who have surplus that would go to waste, we are buying it," says Stephanie Watson, Community Partnerships director at Share Farm. "We are making sure we are paying farmers a good price point," she adds, noting that there are minimum quantities that can be accepted..
Share Farm and the Inland Northwest Farmers Market Association teamed up with the Eat Good Group and Spokane Food Fighters on the project, which will create about 350 food boxes each week through December 2020. Request a box at spokanefoodfighters.org.