Community Services of Moses Lake did not to turn down any gleaning opportunity the first year. If the donation created saturation for a specific type of produce locally, efforts were made to distribute large quantities of that commodity to another part of the state using existing relationships with the hunger relief system. This instills a confidence in the community that no matter how large or small, every donation counts! The best marketing for CSML was traditional media outlets such as local newspapers, radio stations, and online news reports. Such stories produced the greatest number of donors and large groups for volunteering opportunities. Facebook provides a forum for reaching a broad audience, including those in rural communities that may not receive the paper.
Partnering with the Master Gardeners, WSU Extension, Farmers Markets, and community gardens encouraged community support to collaborate with the people interested in growing and possibly donating produce. Networking in a monthly community roundtable meeting led to a chance to engage the editor of the local newspaper. A brief introductory email was sent which included a request for coverage in a trade show magazine, which in turn sparked continuous coverage throughout the season. This partnership led to the Harvest VISTA contributing biweekly for the “Bits and Pieces/Gardening” column in The Columbia Basin Herald. Reporters were available for gardening events and one participated in the SNAP challenge that CSML hosted, reporting on his experience with the challenge. The support of the local paper was invaluable in recruiting new donors, and connections made will continue to raise awareness and coverage in the coming years.
An informational presentation to the Sunrise Rotary in Moses Lake, led to an invitation to join the group providing another forum for outreach. The Sunrise Rotary Club works closely with the new Skill Center alternative high school and is beginning an InterAct club to engage the youth of the area. Connections were made to process excess produce in the future, while giving students the opportunity to learn and fundraise.
In 2013 and again in 2014, CSML was invited to The Gorge to partner with Dave Matthews Band for a unique opportunity to promote local sustainable foods, while also raising awareness about hunger. Reusable water bottles are sold and the profits go to a local organic farm which turns into fresh produce for the food banks. In 2013 over $3,500 was raised and in 2014 that amount was over doubled.
Community Services of Moses Lake (CSML) strives to empower the community so that “Friends help friends feed the hungry.” CSML houses the Moses Lake Food Bank and is the distribution hub for 33 partner food banks in five counties in Central Washington. These counties include the three largest agricultural producers in Washington: Yakima, Benton and Grant counties. In 2012, CSML distributed approximately 120,000 pounds of fresh produce. With the presence of the Harvest Against Hunger VISTA in 2013, that number increased to well over 300,000 lbs. of produce. In 2014, only 68,750 pounds of produce were donated, but that number went up in 2015 with over 99,675 pounds of produce collected and distributed. Overall, CSML has collected approximately 757,155 pounds of fresh produce from farmers in the area.