Farmers helping food banks - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Farmers helping food banks

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ELTOPIA, Wash. - People going hungry is a growing trend across the country. In Washington State alone, the number of hungry families jumped 85% in the last four years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"The economic climate has been such in the last three to four years that a lot of people have got to stretch their dollar to pay for things," said owner of Middleton Organic Orchards Gary Middleton. "Basic necessities, such as housing, maybe schooling and clothes and some other things. Sometimes there's just not enough money to go around."

Tri-Cities Food Bank Executive Director John Neill said that's certainly the case, locally. Thousands of families benefit from the Tri-Cities Food Bank every month.

"We've just finished a very difficult time and that being the summer when there's not a lot of food drives going on so we ran very short on food and spent a lot of our excess cash on food in order to keep the supply of food available to our clients," said Neill.

That's where people like Gary Middleton come into play. Middleton Organic Orchards grows organic blueberries, cherries and apples. For the past 20 years they've donated part of their harvest to those in need.

"There are many times they can't afford fresh fruits and vegetables and we are blessed to have these available not only to sell, but also to give to others as well," said Middleton.

"I just don't know how we'd feed all the people with healthy foods if it wasn't for people like Gary," said Neill.

Neill said a number of farmers work with Fields of Grace and Second Harvest to donate their produce. There are a handful of them, like Middleton, who donate directly to the Food Bank and even individuals with gardens who donate their bounty.