It’s the start of the rainy season here in Seattle, and to get in the mood I recently toured the brand new Northwest Harvest warehouse in Kent, Wash. Northwest Harvest is, of course, the hunger relief group that supplies food banks like Cherry Street, where we bring produce from our pea patch.

As you’d expect, the warehouse is clean and bright with soaring ceilings. We stopped by the re-packaging area first, where volunteers separate thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables into individual servings. That day there were huge pallets of d’Anjou pears donated by a grower from Wenatchee, Wash., a mere 150 food miles away. Many of the pears were in reasonable shape, but it was clear that the fruit needed to move soon — a good reminder of how fragile real food is. The pears were also a lesson in how local food does cost less; we learned that nearly all of Northwest Harvest’s fresh produce comes from in-state growers.

We looped through the dry goods area, where Top Ramen was piled to the ceiling, then dashed through the sub-zero freezer taking note of frozen turkey and mashed potatoes, bought last year at last year’s prices, because the new warehouse suddenly meant the the organization could store all of it. The amount of space is just phenomenal, 94,000 square feet, and Chris, the warehouse manager, grinned as he related that he no longer has to turn food down when someone calls trying to offload, say, ten truckloads of oats.

I was amazed to hear that a hunger relief agency once had to turn down gifts like that — how many people could those truckloads have fed? — just because there was nowhere dry and clean to store them.

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