Years after the end of the recession, food-bank lines around the state are still at record levels.

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Years after the end of the recession, food-bank lines around the state are still at record levels. Organizations such as Northwest Harvest are working harder than ever to meet this need. We’re also focusing on new priorities, including nutrition and health, which work hand-in-hand with existing food-distribution efforts to directly impact communities across the state.

It takes a little less than four hours from Seattle, past breathtaking Cascade Mountain scenery, to reach Leavenworth “Icicle” Station on Amtrak. Leavenworth, a charming Bavarian village along the Wenatchee River, is the ultimate tourist destination. But its people face a challenge no less daunting than the peaks looming over Main Street: a tourist economy that leaves too many permanent residents struggling, often dependent on local food banks such as Community Cupboard.

“The cost of living is almost as expensive to live here as parts of the outer Seattle area,” notes one resident who raised four children alone while living and working in town. “Food costs are just as expensive here.”

Many struggle with the low wages they have come to expect in the tourist economy.

Why stay? “Some people … can’t afford to move. This is where the work is [in our area],” says one resident. Notes another resident, simply, “This is my home.”

Others struggle to keep their families afloat. One resident is a full-time caretaker for his 89-year-old mother. “I can’t work — it’s a 24-hour job.” He relies on his mother’s Social Security check to provide for the family. “Without the food bank … it would be rough living. [And] we’ve got the grandkids three days a week.”

Significant support for Leavenworth’s food banks comes from Northwest Harvest warehouses in Kent, Yakima and Spokane. They dispatch trucks laden with food-drive donations, nutritious fruits and vegetables, and staples like rice and oats to bring the bounty of our state to those in need through more than 380 similar food banks, meal programs and high-need schools statewide.

With too many in our state still struggling, communities around Washington are rallying around a new movement and a new cry: Hunger stops here. Learn more about the effort at www.leadingthefight.org. Learn more about Northwest Harvest at northwestharvest.org.