Fall harvest means the satisfying crunch of Washington state apples. An American fall favorite, the apples are harvested primarily by Latino migrant farm workers, many of them with families who live, work, and go to school in the Mattawa area, a central Washington community located 2-3 hour’s drive from Seattle and Spokane. Those families, who are busily harvesting fall produce, often turn to the Mattawa Area Food Bank (MAFB) for nutritious food for themselves and their children.
Founded in 2006 as a volunteer-only hunger relief agency, the MAFB believes in the importance of ensuring that nutritious food reaches rural communities like theirs, and that food should be given freely to anyone hungry enough to ask.
“On behalf of the Mattawa Area Food Bank’s Board of Directors, we are just thrilled,” says Board President, Pamela Bunger, of receiving a 2020 Nation of Neighbors℠ grant. “We serve a very important population, many who are Latino agricultural workers, who in spite of harvesting fruits and vegetables throughout the year, often find themselves needing extra help to secure food for their own families.”
Ms. Bunger, a local elementary school teacher, says the food bank distributes food boxes two Saturdays a month. When harvest season is over, the food bank can distribute as many as 300-600 boxes on donation days. The boxes contain fresh produce, donated tortillas, beans, and meat. “The need is great, and this grant will help us significantly. We just learned that our forklift is unrepairable. We couldn’t live without one for loading and unloading heavy pallets of food. Many of our volunteers are retirees, so the forklift really assists in lifting donations our volunteers could not manage alone. The grant has come just at the right time to help us purchase a replacement, and any remaining dollars may also go toward our goal of purchasing a walk-in freezer to keep food fresh.”
The COVID-19 epidemic has also increased the demand for the food the bank distributes. “Especially when the seasonal harvest is over, families are out of work until the growing season begins. On many Saturdays our distributions have doubled. The grant from Royal Neighbors will help us meet the needs of our area, especially supporting children with milk and protein, who while attending school online, need all the support they can get to successfully navigate these trying times,” says Ms. Bunger.
Nation of Neighbors is a Royal Neighbors of America philanthropy program that honors women leaders who are impacting the lives of women and girls. Each year, recipients are selected for an empowerment grant to support their work. To date, Royal Neighbors has awarded more than $2 million to women across the country.
For more information and program details, click here.