SUNNYSIDE — Inspired generosity was a key ingredient packaged within the 600 meal boxes passed out by volunteers and Washington Army National Guard members during Second Harvest’s Fifth Annual Turkey Drive at Sunnyview Park on Monday morning.
“It’s good to help out and give back and help everyone have a good Thanksgiving,” Brent Riggs with Sunnyside Les Schwab described, who has previously participated in the annual program.
He joined tire center members Kelby Cleaver of Prosser, Marcus Romero of Richland, and Bob Tuning of Toppenish loading food boxes into vehicles.
The drive-thru event, presented by Lamb Weston, was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Due to an overwhelming surge of early bird traffic on Ray Road, which created additional safety concerns on Yakima Valley Highway, Sunnyside Police advised distribution staff to begin as soon as possible.
“We’ve had such problems with traffic with Sunnyside, we don’t want to do anything to jeopardize us being able to keep coming out. So, we started 45 minutes earlier because we had to get the cars moving,” Second Harvest Nutrition Education Manager Reagran Lara explained.
By 9:15 a.m., all the turkey meals had been successfully delivered with a shared goal of aiding families with food insecurities.
According to the first Washington State Food Security Survey, 30% of state households have experienced food insecurity since the implementation of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order in March.
Of those households, 59% had children living in the home. The survey was conducted by a team of professors and researchers at WSU, UW, and Tacoma Community College.
Auto Zone and Les Schwab corporations were both program sponsors and area representatives took part in the mobile event.
“I think it’s awesome to be able to give back to the community and give service to others that need it, and especially at a time of Thanksgiving,” Romero acknowledged.
The Washington Dairy Association donated a portion of items that were also included in the meal boxes and Council members handed out bags, Lara said.
“This community right now is in immense need. We know it, we feel it, we see it, and so whatever we can do to help the community to have less burden with food insecurity, that’s what we want to do,” Lara affirmed.
A complement of 28 National Guard members attached to the Second Harvest operation in Pasco assisted the food pantry’s distribution missions throughout the eastern portion of the state.
“I think the great thing about the National Guard is that all of these soldiers are all from the community – the local community or some of us are from the westside but we all get to actively help out here,” Major and officer in charge Dana Epperson expressed.
The estimated average for food insecurity in the state prior to the COVID-19 pandemic was in the 10-15% range, Katie Rains, policy advisor to the director for the Washington State Department of Agriculture reported.
“There was about twice as many people as I have ever seen, so the need is huge and Les Schwab is all about helping the community and it feels good to be a part of it,” Tuning conveyed.