Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What does Northwest Harvest do? Don’t you just run a food bank in Seattle?
A. We do own and operate the Cherry Street Food Bank at the home of our Seattle administrative offices, but our main responsibility is as a food distribution network for all of Washington. We use our contacts, buying power and more than 45 years experience with issues of hunger to provide more food and better nutritional variety to partner programs, allowing them to focus more of their limited resources toward serving clients.
Q. What do you mean by partner programs?
A. Independent hunger programs as well as high-need elementary schools throughout Washington partner with us to receive food. They serve as our distribution arm to every corner of the state. All hunger programs must operate with the same core values: treating clients with dignity, requiring minimal information, and serving all who seek food.
Q. Who uses a food bank?
A. People often imagine food banks and meal programs serving only the chronic homeless. In fact, our clients are everyone– the working poor, families or individuals suffering immediate crises such as a layoff, medical emergency, domestic violence or displacement after forced evacuation. These same situations can force clients into homelessness, but when the only financial sacrifice a family can make amounts to a choice between the most basic of necessities, we can provide one of them– food. We do know that throughout our hunger response network, more than half of those we serve are children and the elderly.
Q. How are you different from other hunger organizations?
A. We are statewide. We also purchase more food, proportionally, than any other non-profit hunger relief agency in Washington. We raise funds specifically to purchase food so that we have more control over what we provide to partner agencies and a greater ability to respond to client needs. In the last fiscal year we purchased nearly 8 million pounds of nutritious, diverse and desirable food.
Q. Why aren’t you a United Way member agency?
A. By operating as an independent agency, we can adhere to our mission of not requiring identification or proof of need.
Q. How do people get food from you? What paperwork do they need to bring to the food bank?
A. Clients need only come into one of our 350+ partner programs. We require no proof of income, address or identity. If someone comes to us for assistance, that is proof enough of need.
Q. How do you know that people aren’t taking advantage of the system?
A. It is hard to imagine that people will stand in line in the rain and the cold for food they don’t need. We know that the overwhelming percentages of people coming to food banks need that food. We prefer to err on the side of providing food to all, instead of turning someone away who is in genuine need.
Q. Where does your funding come from?
A. The majority comes from individuals. The remainder comes from corporations, foundations, churches, and community groups.
Q. Where does my donation go?
A. 92% of your donation will go towards food purchase and distribution. See our current rating on Charity Navigator.
Q. What are your administrative costs?
A. Over the last thirty years, our administrative and fundraising costs together have never exceeded 8%.
Q. Have you ever turned anyone away due to lack of food?
A. No. With continued support from the community, no one will leave here without food.
Q. What is food insecurity?
A. Households are determined to be food insecure when they run out of food and do not have the resources to purchase more; or they have to reduce the quality of food that they are able to purchase; or feeding children unbalanced diets or skipping meals so that their children can eat.
Q. Is the need growing?
A. The results of the recession have increased need statewide. The need for nutritious food is also increasing. Overwhelming evidence links poverty and malnutrition with obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
- 70 percent of the food we provide is highly nutritious fruits and vegetables.
- Our warehouse allows us to accept and store greater quantities of frozen and bulk food, and offers much-needed repacking services for both.
Q. Is there a partner program in my area?
A. Please see our list of partner programs.
Q. Where can I donate food?
A. We accept food Monday through Friday at our Cherry Street Food Bank as well as our Kent, Spokane and Yakima warehouses. For a complete list, please see our public drop sites page.
Q. Do you glean fruit for the food banks?
A. We don’t have the resources to glean, but other nonprofit organizations coordinate gleaning projects like the Community Fruit Tree Harvest to benefit food programs. Visit www.solid-ground.org for more information.
Updated September 2012