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Free food an extra benefit at the local senior center


Safeway employee Mike Kinnie helps Grand Coulee Senior Center volunteer Felix Marcolin load donated food from Safeway for the Senior Meals program, which offers free food to the public for those in need. - Jacob Wagner photo

The Senior Meals program offers free food to anyone at the Grand Coulee Dam Senior Center. The food is received through Second Harvest from the local Safeway, as well as from Spokane, and from anyone who cares to donate.

Second Harvest is an organization based in Spokane and the Tri-Cities that helps distribute about 2.5 million pounds of food each month to food banks in Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho.

Felix Marcolin, a volunteer at the senior center, logs in "at least" 20 hours a week there.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Marcolin goes to the Grand Coulee Safeway to pick up red bins of food, and drops off previously used red bins. Safeway tallies up the food it donates, and once back at the senior center, Marcolin weighs and logs the food received, bin by bin, some weeks more food than others.

Some of the food, Marcolin said, ends up at the senior center in Coulee City, which also distributes for the Senior Meals program.

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, it's the Care and Share Food Bank, located in the Nazarene Church on SR-174, that picks up food from Safeway.

Marcolin said a fair amount of people take advantage of the opportunity at the senior center, including a lot of repeat customers, many of whom also go to the food bank, often with differences in the food available.

"It's a lot better than throwing it all away," noted Mike Kinnie, a Safeway employee who frequently helps Marcolin load up the food. "It helps them out, it helps us out."

Julie Humphreys, Community Relations Manager for Second Harvest, said that the local Safeway donated 6,070 pounds in the past year to the local Senior Meals program.

In addition to what comes in from the local Safeway, Second Harvest brings in additional food from Spokane on the fourth Wednesday of each month, which is then usually available to the public around 9 a.m.

"Rural areas are harder to get to and can be a bit of a food desert," Humphreys said on Second Harvest reaching out more to rural areas.

Safeway has been donating food to local seniors for close to 20 years, according to Marcolin and Debby Ward, a Safeway employee who helps log Safeway's donated food. Including donations to the seniors and the food bank, Safeway had donated enough food for around 11,400 meals in 2016, according to a small sign posted in the store.

Some of the food received goes toward the meals provided by the Senior Meals program, available for a suggested $3.50 donation per meal for senior citizens, and a suggested $6.50 donation for everyone else. Breakfast is served on Mondays and Fridays from 8-10 a.m. and dinner is served Tuesdays through Thursdays at 5. p.m.

After the meals program has used what it can from the donated food, it is first offered to the program's patrons, then to anyone who enters the senior center.

A refrigerator/freezer marked "Free Food" is open to the public, as is other food laid out that the staff there can identify for those interested. Last week, potatoes, red onions, lentils, and breads were all available. All kinds of foods become available from week to week, including refrigerated foods, meats, produce, and more.

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