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Northwest Harvest

Forty years of fighting hunger across Washington

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“We’re addressing a basic need that people have — the need for food,” said Claire Acey, director of communications for Northwest Harvest, Washington’s only statewide hunger relief agency.  The organization addresses that need via a network of some 300 food banks in 36 of Washington’s 39 counties.  Based in Seattle, it has been in operation for more than 40 years.


Northwest Harvest is noted for its history of stewardship over the donations it receives.  The agency is particularly proud of the mileage it gets out of money donations.  Currently, 93 percent of the money raised by Northwest Harvest “goes directly to serving clients across the state,” Acey explained.  

The organization certainly accepts nonperishable food donations, but it can buy more food inexpensively with the cash it receives from donors.  

“We can feed a family of three one meal — one nutritious meal — for sixty-seven cents … so the dollar donation really does go a long way,” Acey said.

One way in which Northwest Harvest supports its partners — the food banks and meal program sites in its distribution network — is in its selection of foods that are sent to those locations.  Acey explained that the group searches for types of food that are inherently difficult for the clients to otherwise obtain on a regular basis, mainly fresh fruit and vegetables.  Fresh produce can be particularly hard to find and buy even if families could afford to do so if they don’t live near a supermarket or don’t have reliable transportation for regular trips to a supermarket.

Much of the produce that Northwest Harvest provides its partner food banks and meal program sites is donated by the growers themselves.  The organization also buys food from various suppliers throughout the year, mainly perishables such as fresh meat and dairy products. 

Some food relief agencies charge transportation or other fees in connection with the food they supply to food banks, but Northwest Harvest maintains a “no fee” policy in its dealings with the food banks and meal programs it supplies. Yhe food is sent to those recipients without cost. 

“The food has been donated to us,” Acey explained, “so we want to turn around and donate it to our community.”

Northwest Harvest relies heavily on its volunteer workforce, which helps the organization keep its overhead low.  Acey estimated that the group’s volunteers contribute the equivalent of more than 20 full-time employees.  “So they’re a very important part of what we do,” she said.  Some of the volunteers work in the food bank setting.  Others donate time helping with the organization’s large-scale warehouse operations.

To learn more about Northwest Harvest or to find the location of nearby food banks, call 206.625.0755 or 800.722.6924, or visit

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