In 2011, the manager of pastoral care for Providence Health Care (PHC) in Stevens County (serves the rural region north of Spokane), was asked to lead an initiative to address hunger. This came after a Community Health Needs Assessment identified hunger as a priority. Approximately 15,000 residents in northeast Washington lack reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. But the problem extends beyond hunger. Not having healthy food puts people at risk for obesity, diabetes, and other health problems. Thanks to PHC Community Benefit funding, the Northeast Washington (NEW) Hunger Coalition was created to address the issue. The Coalition brings together nearly 25 partner organizations including 13 food banks, and Washington State University Extension, Rural Resources Communication Action, and the regional health district.
One solution to addressing hunger is bringing fresh produce to people in need. That requires refrigeration. PHC funded grant-seeking classes for the food banks. The first year, PHC provided seven grants to area food banks. Over the past three years, the Coalition has also contracted with NW Harvest and local farms to get fresh produce, and secured a donated refrigerated truck for transport. The Coalition focuses on addressing the barriers to access. Coalition board leadership and volunteer support continues to come from PHC in Stevens County. PHC Community Benefit support has been vital as the Coalition has created a viable infrastructure.
According to Rural Resources (2015), in the Tri-County area (Stevens, Ferry and Pend Oreille counties), 15,407 people are served by the food banks. The work of the Hunger Coalition and its partners resulted in increased availability of fresh produce: From 2013 to 2016, NW Harvest Produce Days delivered 533,121 pounds of produce; from 2014 to 2016, the Farm to Food Bank/Pantry delivered 52,869 pounds of produce; from 2013 to 2016, the Vets Outreach/Community Food Drop delivered 98,000 pounds of produce; and in 2016, the First Local Farm to School Program delivered 17,208 of produce.
The Coalition learned it needed a tool to assess and grow its efforts. Washington State University, a partner, developed this tool, which helped the Coalition identify the need for a transportation system to move produce from farms to food banks/schools.
The Coalition is working to identify food insecurity through collaboration with hospitals/clinics; expand the farm to school program; create a hub-based distribution system; and work toward self-sustainability. To that end, a one pallet refrigerated trailer (i.e., Coolpup trailer) has been designed and built to transport produce from fields to food banks. It is being patented as a potential income stream.
Contact: Joyce Cameron
Chief Development Officer