FRANKLIN COUNTY, Wash. – Benton and Franklin Counties are two of the counties with the highest percentage of children living with food insecurity in the state of Washington, according to United Way.
"Hunger is not always a visible issue," said Jean Tucker, Development Manager for Second Harvest.
Hunger could take the form of a mother skipping meals so her kids can eat, she said. Or a father making a tough decision between fixing the car in order to get to work, or putting food on the table.
"In our community one out of nine people, and that includes one out of five kids, does not have enough to eat," Tucker said.
Food insecurity is a complex issue: That’s why food banks and organizations are working together to focus on health as a part of the solution to fighting hunger by bringing fresh produce to struggling families in Benton and Franklin Counties.
Last year, Second Harvest donated 2.5 million pounds of produce, thanks to generous donors and volunteers.
One of their great partners is Fields of Grace, which is an organization that provides volunteers to farmers who want to donate crops, but lack the resources to pick the additional produce. Fields of Grace volunteers provide the hands needed to harvest.
However, other families are hungry because they’re starving for a supermarket.
"Most of north Franklin County or any rural area really doesn’t have grocery stores,” said Bill Dixon, a Master Gardener for WSU Extension Master Gardener Program. “So it makes it very hard for people to have fresh fruits and vegetables."
Dixon volunteers along with 80 other Master Gardeners, to help bring fresh produce to disadvantaged families by teaching them how to garden. The Master Gardeners have helped build 35 gardens throughout Benton and Franklin Counties.
"A lot of our low-income kids don’t eat fruits and vegetables because their families can’t afford it," Dixon said.
However, through the WSU Extension Master Gardener Program, he said families are empowered with the ability to grow their own fruits and vegetables.
"These families will get at least 100 pounds of fresh produce out of each bed,” he said.
Dixon said the Master Gardeners have also encouraged other gardeners to plant a row for the hungry.
"This is where we ask individual gardeners if they’ve got a little bit of excess space where they can grow something and donate it to the food banks,” he said.
Plant a Row brings in about 50,000 pounds of produce a year. Dixon said it really is the partnership that helps feed these struggling families. Alone it wouldn't be possible, he said, but together they can make an impact.
Garden projects that Master Gardeners take on are made possible through a partnership with Second Harvest and by a grant from United Way. Plus, the organization Fields of Grace is a direct byproduct of Second Harvest voicing the need for fresh produce at food banks. These organizations are always in need of volunteers and donations.
If you’re interested in donating to Fields of Grace visit their donation page. Or visit the Fields of Grace office is at Hillspring Church, 1153 Gage Blvd., Richland. The phone number is 509-339-3332. For more information, go to fields-of-grace.com or email email@example.com.
Tri-Cities Food Banks
Tri-Cities Food Bank, 420 W Deschutes Ave 509.586.0688
Tri-Cities Food Banks, 321 Wellsian Way, 509.943.2795
Harvest Outreach, Church, 120 W Railroad Ave 509.582.9064
Second Harvest Food Bank, 5825 Burlington St. 509.588.5454
Tri-Cities Food Bank, 712 10th St. Benton City, Wed. 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM Thurs | Noon - 2:30 PM / 6:00 - 8:00 PM 509.588.5454
Tri-City Union Gospel, homeless Shelter, 112 N 2nd Ave, 509.547.2112
If you need help with anything from food, education to medical care, just call 2-1-1 Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. People for People is an equally opportunity agency and provider of employment and training and social services. Dial Toll free 1-877-211-5445 or visit www.win211.org.