Mobile food markets make a difference

Second Harvest’s mobile markets serve fresh food to the community


Martha Meeks, Second Harvest core volunteer, volunteering for Second Harvest.


As the price of food continues to rise, the issue of food insecurity grows: but Second Harvest is here to help fight hunger.

Second Harvest is an organization that works to give healthy food to high-need communities by providing fresh produce to families, children and seniors experiencing food insecurity.

Martha Meeks, Second Harvest core volunteer, said Second Harvest chooses which communities to help by reaching out to their contacts at low-income housing and schools in Spokane.

Meeks was previously an elementary school principal at a Title I school in California, she said. Title I is a federal program that supports low-income students in the US.

“Ninety-five percent of my students were on free and reduced lunch, so I understood food insecurity, and I understood what happened with kids that didn’t have enough to eat,” Meeks said.

After retirement, Meeks moved to Spokane in 2020 and was looking to volunteer at an organization where she could continue to help families, kids and her community, she said.

That was when Meeks got involved with Second Harvest. She said she began sorting food, packing beans and bagging up potatoes and produce to serve the greater community in whatever way she could.

“The more I did it, the more I wanted to do more because I enjoyed it so much,” Meeks said.

After volunteering for about a year, Meeks said she had the opportunity to work with Second Harvests’ mobile markets, which bring healthy food in buses directly to high-need communities.

Second Harvest gets the food for the mobile markets with funds from supporters, Meeks said, as well as food donations. All the food at the mobile market is also very nutritious, Meeks said. They supply oatmeal, beans, produce, canned chicken, tuna fish, eggs and other healthy food options.

Emily Menshew, mobile market nutrition educator, is in charge of finding recipes that use ingredients from the mobile market, preparing the food and providing samples to clients, she said.

“Nutrition education is so important because sometimes, fresh produce or whole ingredients are unfamiliar to folks,” Menshew said. “The goal is to do some demystifying of those ingredients, teach them how to use them and encourage people to make recipes with ingredients they might not be familiar with.”

The bus parks in different places in Spokane, such as low-income senior housing and elementary schools, so the people there can grab what they need, she said.

“What I really love about Second Harvest [is that] we never ask for ID,” Meeks said. “If you drive by and you see the bus, anyone can stop and get the food.”

Meeks said Todd Kennedy, mobile market manager, is really conscious of the people they feed.

If they are serving senior housing, they get food that seniors would appreciate, Meeks said, and if they are serving a college campus, Second Harvest provides easy grab-and-go options.

For Menshew, the motivation to educate others about nutrition came from Second Harvest, she said. Food is a central part of people’s lives, Menshew said, and everyone handles nutrition differently.

“Something that we really try to do with the nutrition education at Second Harvest is [meet] people where they’re at and try to find ways for healthier swaps,” Menshew said.

The excitement from clients able to get food is what makes Second Harvest so rewarding, Menshew said. At the senior housing, she said they typically get the same people coming back and utilizing the mobile markets.

“When they come back, you recognize their faces,” she said. “100% of the people at these markets are thankful, they’re appreciative. And many of them say, ‘we would not have food if not for this food.’”

In the first mobile market Meeks worked at, she said she traveled to an elementary school, and families picking up their kids were able to grab food from the bus to take home with them.

“I was inspired because I thought that is just a continuation of the work I did as a principal,” Meeks said.

Second Harvest is very honorable and trustworthy with the resources that they receive, Meeks said. Everything gets put to use, she said, and nothing gets wasted. 

Supporters can donate money directly to Second Harvest’s programs, which include the mobile food banks and their weekend feeding for kids program, by visiting Second Harvest’s website and designating exactly where they want their money to go, Meeks said.

Supporters can also bring in food to Second Harvest’s warehouse at 1234 E Front Ave in Spokane, Washington.

Meeks said her goal is to volunteer with the mobile markets for as long as she is able.

“I believe when you do something for someone else, it really does more for you than it does for the other person,” Meeks said.