Infusion helps fill supply chain gap
Local food banks got another infusion of help this month after the Okanogan County commissioners approved almost $200,000 to fill the gap after a key food supplier suspended deliveries during the winter. Some 8,000 county residents rely on the food banks run by Okanogan County Community Action Council (OCCAC).
That money is on top of a $250,000 grant the county provided to OCCAC from the federal American Rescue Plan Act in October for a food-storage cooler, freezer and generator for the food bank, and for salaries for leadership and warehouse workers.
The county funds will help OCCAC supply nine food pantries throughout the county. The Cove, the food bank in Twisp, received $15,000. OCCAC has been scrambling to find donations since they learned in November that Spokane-based Second Harvest had cancelled deliveries of produce and groceries for at least December and January.
Second Harvest suspended deliveries throughout eastern Washington because they simply didn’t have enough food to distribute, according to Second Harvest Community Partnership Director Eric Williams.
“We’re very grateful to the commissioners for their support. These funds will help purchase the food needed to support our community for the next few months while we work to figure out long-term solutions,” OCCAC Executive Director Rena Shawver said in a press release.
Most of the recent grant from the county ($135,000) will buy food. The remainder will be used to rent a food-storage facility for two years ($50,000) and for emergency shelter for people not eligible for other funds ($15,000).
Community Action is also getting additional food from the Washington State Department of Agriculture, which administers a federal program for fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy and whole grains. Chelan/Douglas Community Action Council agreed to transport those foods from the Seattle area to their warehouse in Wenatchee at least through March after Second Harvest suspended deliveries, which also affected the federal program. OCCAC will pick up the deliveries from Wenatchee.
In addition to the two county grants, Community Action received $60,000 from Save the Children and United Health Care. Private donations in December reached an all-time high of almost $20,000, including $5,000 from the 12 Tribes Colville Casinos, OCCAC said.
Local grocers have increased their food donations and businesses and organizations are running food drives. Students from the Okanogan School District ran a penny drive for the food pantries and presented a check to Community Action for $352.29.