A massive steel frame erected at Fruitvale Boulevard and North 20th Avenue is a tangible sign of what is to come: Northwest Harvest’s largest food distribution center in the state.
The 200,000-square-foot facility will store meats, produce and other foods that will supply food banks across the state.
A 4,000 square foot free market will also be built on the same site to serve the community. The project will bring 40 new jobs to Yakima.
northwest harvest broke through last year about the project that aims to improve food distribution, deepen relationships with area farmers, and better serve the community.
“This is definitely going to be a game changer,” said Carmen Mendez, director of food access and allocations for Northwest Harvest. “This will increase our ability to store more fresh fruits and vegetables from our valley and distribute them to other regions of the state.”
The project is being developed on approximately 10 acres on North 20th Avenue near Fruitvale Boulevard. The distribution center is being built on the north side of the property, while the market will be located on the south side facing Fruitvale Boulevard.
So far, steel beams and other support beams have been erected, forming the skeleton of the distribution center. Large concrete ramps and loading docks have also been installed.
The distribution center is expected to be finished in December and the store should be finished in March 2023.
“This is going to fill a big void,” he said. northwest harvest CEO Thomas Reynolds.
The distribution center will be equipped with cold rooms for fresh food.
This will allow Northwest Harvest to work more closely with Valley growers who lack cold storage, primarily small farmers, Mendez said.
The hope is to create a social enterprise with farmers who can’t afford cold storage, he said.
“We want to take advantage of small growers who often throw away fruits and vegetables because they don’t have cold storage (facilities),” Mendez said.
Farmers can be charged a storage fee on a sliding scale or can make food donations in exchange for the use of storage, Reynolds said.
Sometimes farmers’ harvests exceed the contracted amount and what they don’t sell is immediately wasted.
But soon they will be able to store it at the distribution center until they sell it, Reynolds said.
“Whatever they don’t sell, they’ll just give away to use,” he said.
Essentially a food bank, the market is meant to provide those in need with a shopping experience.
“The real difference is that you don’t pay when you check out,” Reynolds said.
There will be nothing to sign and no identification requirements to use the food market.
“You don’t have to prove you’re low-income, you don’t have to prove you’re hungry,” Reynolds said. “If you are here and you are hungry, we will help you.”
Northwest Harvest has a similar store in Seattle that has been well received by the community. People who come to that store usually don’t take more than they need because they know what it means to fight, she said.
Staff will be on hand to explain where food in the store comes from and the different ways to prepare it, Reynolds said.
“It’s a warm working community environment,” he said. “I think the community will see him as a real asset to the neighborhood.”
Ken Trainor, director of food operations for the nonprofit Sunrise Outreach, likes the store concept.
Northwest Harvest helps stock the shelves of his agency’s food bank, which primarily serves north Yakima.
“If they put us out of business, I’m not worried about that,” Trainor said. “Our goal is that everyone is fed, no one goes hungry.”