When Eric Darko arrived in Seattle from Ghana to participate in a professional leadership exchange program in 2015, he had no idea that his visit would be life-changing – not only for himself, but also for the people in his community back home.
The 33-year-old biochemist, who works in a regional office of the Food and Drugs Authority, a state agency in Ghana, recalls being “moved” by the experience of volunteering at Northwest Harvest, Washington’s only statewide nonprofit food bank distributor.
“I had never seen a food bank before. The thought of hungry people coming in and picking up food really touched me,” Mr. Darko says. “I am the kind of person who likes giving. I remember saying in our closing meeting [for the exchange program that] I would open a food bank in Ghana.”
Five months ago, he made good on his promise, launching Eastern Harvest Food Bank in the New Juaben Municipality of Ghana’s Eastern Region. It’s believed to be the first food bank in the country with warehouse operations.
Ghana is a country of about 28 million people. Despite its relatively small size, it boasts a fast-growing economy because of natural resources such as gold, diamonds, and oil. It also has a strong agricultural sector, and the government is pushing more growth in vegetable production.
Over the years, the government has made impressive gains in fighting hunger. Yet even with much progress, food scarcity remains a problem.
With two assistants helping Darko as well as volunteers, Eastern Harvest Food Bank is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It provides people in need – generally local residents who are age 50 or older – with basics such as rice, beans, tomato paste, sugar, and gari, a popular West African staple made from cassava tubers that can be ground into flour.
Since its launch, Eastern Harvest Food Bank has fed more than 2,400 people.
“Some days we run out of food,” Darko admits. “We need more donations.”
He started by asking family members and close friends to donate food.
So far at least 54 volunteers, some of whom work for the Municipal Nutrition Office, have given their time to help distribute food. And some return with donations.
The greatest need can be found among older Ghanaians.
“The 50-plus population is among the most vulnerable,” Darko explains. “There are often health issues, and some are…