George Ahearn has spent his whole life living in the farming community of Othello, Washington.
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, the father-of-three heard a disturbing rumor circulating in town. Because of problems with the supply chain and ever-dropping crop prices, many local farmers planned to destroy their harvested produce.
George was aghast at the sheer wastefulness of the situation. He knew there were plenty of food banks whose shelves were bare for many of the same reasons the farmers faced their dilemma. He began brainstorming ways to bridge the gap between farm and table, starting with contacting local farmers and food banks.
Instantly a few problems arose. For starters, the food banks require all donated items to be washed and bagged, so showing up with a dump truck full of just-picked potatoes was out of the question. Secondly, who has a dump truck at their disposal, anyway?
George decided that starting a non-profit and involving his community was his best bet. He started EastWest Food Rescue and put out a call on social media for assistance. Dozens of people offered to help his cause, among them Nancy Balin and Zsofia Pasztor, who would eventually become the charity’s co-founders.
Nancy runs another non-profit called Farmer Frog that cultivates gardens in schools across Washington. Using her connections, EastWest Food Rescue was able to move more than 60 tons of produce across the state in their first week of operation!
The non-profit went on to move two more convoys with about 70 tons of donated produce to food banks, but even this incredible amount of food came up short.
“That’s 140,000 pounds,” George told CNN. “Surely we have flooded the market, and we should be proud of ourselves, and that’s it. Three days later and there was not a potato or onion here. I realized that we need to do this again, and we got to do this for months.”
EastWest does their best to compensate farmers for the cost of picking and packaging the food, which is better than receiving no payment at all.
As word spreads more and more community members are pitching in to help George’s mission. They’ve received donations of cash, dump trucks, a brand new Honda, and other key resources necessary to make the vision a reality.
When wildfires broke out across much of the Pacific Northwest, EastWest Food Rescue shifted gears to help bring non-perishable food to them, too. To date, George’s humble charity has helped move almost 8 million pounds of produce from farms to food banks. Hundreds of food banks and meal programs have benefitted from their hard work and dedication!
“I have seen minutes of effort move thousands, and thousands of pounds (of food),” George said. “Just figure out what you are passionate about and what you could get involved in.”
That’s great advice from George! There’s always something we can do to help. This is a wonderful solution to a heartbreaking challenge.
Share this story to thank George and EastWest Food Rescue for finding a solution.
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