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EastWest Food Rescue donates 35 million pounds of food to people in need within first year

When restaurants closed, farmers suddenly had more crops than they knew what to do with. The EastWest Food Rescue brought that food to hungry people in need.

BOTHELL, Wash. — EastWest Food Rescue, a non-profit based out of Bothell, is celebrating one year of connecting farmers with excess crops to hungry people in need. 

In late April of 2020, George Ahearn heard how farmers in eastern Washington were preparing to plow onions and potatoes back into their fields. Restaurant closures and interruptions in the supply chain left many farmers with crops they couldn't suddenly had no use for. 

That's when inspiration struck. Ahearn posted a message on his community Facebook page, asking if anyone could help him drive the crops from eastern Washington to food banks in western Washington. A small group of people volunteered. 

"The community galvanized and came together, and we brought back over 18,000 pounds of food," Ahearn said.

On May 1, 2020, EastWest Food Rescue was officially born. Ahearn, alongside co-founders Zsofia Pasztor and Nancy Balin, decided their mission was to support farmers who could help feed neighbors in need. The non-profit purchases food directly from farmers and distributes it to food banks, community kitchens, senior centers, grade school food programs, Native American tribes and other food organizations. 

So far, the group has acquired and distributed over 35 million pounds of food to over 700 food agencies in the past twelve months. 

"Before the pandemic, food insecurity was high. About 1 in 8 Americans were hungry. COVID-19 doubled that. That means 25% of Americans didn't have money at the end of the week to adequately eat," said Vice-Chair of EastWest Food Rescue's Board John Kunin. 

While the non-profit's focus is here in Washington, its food network has expanded to include 19 other states.