By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

More than 2,000 pounds of red apples grown on the nation's largest contiguous orchard in Washington arrived at the Montana Food Bank Network's warehouse in Missoula on Wednesday, where they'll be divided and shipped across the state to combat hunger.

The arrival, which came shortly after 10 a.m. on a tractor-trailer, represents a donation made by the Good Food Store in Missoula and Charlie's Produce in Spokane as part of the “Take A Bite Out of Hunger” program – itself sponsored by Fresh Fruits Marketing in Washington.

“Most people don't know that one in seven Montanans struggles with hunger throughout the year, which translates into 146,000 people, so we're really trying to meet the needs,” said Bill Mathews, chief development officer for the Montana Food Bank Network. “We'll include these apples with our distribution runs as soon as we can.”

Those apples, which arrived in two large boxes set on pallets, add to the 10.4 million pounds of food distributed each year across Montana by the Food Bank Network. The organization serves as the only statewide food bank and reaches 32 of Montana's 56 counties.

As a member of Feeding America, Mathews said much of organization's food comes from donors across the county, including canned goods from the Midwest and fresh fruit picked during the growing season in the Pacific Northwest.

“We acquire food and distribute food to over 140 partner agencies, like food banks and food pantries across the state,” said Mathews. “We have our partner agency orders we fill daily.”

Wednesday's shipment arrived on behalf of Fresh Fruits Marketing, which runs the largest contiguous orchard in the country, with more than 8,500 acres in Prescott and a separate orchard in Yakima.

Workers unload a delivery of apples from Fresh Fruits Marketing at the Montana Food Bank Network warehouse in Missoula. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)
Workers unload a delivery of apples from Fresh Fruits Marketing at the Montana Food Bank Network warehouse in Missoula. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

Fresh Fruits sponsors the Take A Bite Out of Hunger program.

“A lot of our profits and proceeds go to people in need throughout the world,” said Tim Corkill, regional marketing manager for Fresh Fruits Marketing. “We help get retailers and wholesalers involved locally in creating awareness in what food insecurity is, and how everyone can help and participate in the community.”

For each of the past three years, the Good Food Store and Charlie's has participated in the Take A Bite Out of Hunger campaign. The Good Food Store made Wednesday's donation, which included more than 2,000 pounds of apples.

For Paul Rosen, produce manager at the Good Food Store, the program presents an opportunity for the popular Missoula grocer to give back to the community.

“It's actually part of our mission to work with food security nonprofits and help things along in that regard,” said Rosen. “We're fortunate enough to have a lot of loyal customers and a lot of cars in the parking lot. When we're able to take some of what we've made to help somebody else out, we're happy to do it.”

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at