The largest food drive in the state has had its best kick-off in years after the community donated 75,000 hunger bags – half a million meals – in less than two weeks.

“We were expecting 25,000 bags from Safeway already. The fact that it's already 75,000 really stunned me. It's an incredible outpouring of support,” Northwest Harvest’s Thomas Reynolds said.

It is his first year as CEO, and what a year to start: Since November 1, Northwest Harvest and Safeway have broken records by raising 50 percent more than last year for the Home Team Harvest campaign to end hunger.

Safeway’s Sara Osborne says employees are the ones making it happen.

“When I'm in the stores, I hear them talking about food banks and what kind of food is going to their local food banks, and really talking to the customers coming through the check stand and really letting them know they can make a huge difference for hunger in their own communities,” Osborne said.

Reynolds says it is a lifeline, as more people go hungry every year since 2008, despite an upturn in the economy.

“We're seeing lines out the door at food banks across the state. Particularly in rural areas and particularly in places people are struggling to pay rent and affected by the rising healthcare costs,” Reynolds said.

With six weeks left in the food drive, Safeway’s goal is to raise enough funds for two million meals. The goal for the entire campaign is five million meals.

KING 5’s annual Home Team Harvest event will take place Saturday, December 2. We will have six collection sites in western Washington, including Northgate, Redmond Town Center, and Tacoma Mall, as well as Safeway stores in Lynnwood, Bothell, and Renton Highlands.