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Number of hungry people in area equals Bloomsday numbers

Cyndi Cook would be glad if her job wasn’t needed.  It would mean there was no hunger.

Cyndi, who is special events manager for Second Harvest of the Inland Northwest, spoke at the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service Nov. 22 at the Cathedral of St. John, co-sponsored by the Interfaith Council, sharing results of the agency’s 2007 client survey.

Cyndi Cook
Joe Urlacher helps Cyndi Cook load barrels of food.

To help people picture the 48,000 people who came to food banks from the Cascades to North Idaho last week, she suggested thinking of Bloomsday, which drew about 48,000 walkers and runners to Spokane last May.

“The people who come are like you and me, seniors, children, working mothers, stay-at-home fathers and seniors,” she said.

Some come to food banks for food, so they can buy a tank of gas or because food stamps ran out before the end of the month when they would receive more, said Cyndi, who worked at St. Vincent de Paul’s food bank before coming to Second Harvest.

Even though the hungry tend to be hidden, she said, the caring became visible before Thanksgiving when people helped provide 8,000 bags with turkeys and Thanksgiving meal fixings for four people—enough for 32,000 people.

Reviewing the issues reported in the 2007 survey of 700 Second Harvest clients at the 21 emergency food outlets in Spokane County, Jason Clark, executive director, said their stories “give meaning to our work.”

Rising energy and gas prices make it a challenge to provide hunger relief services in the region, but many statistics are similar to previous years, with almost half of those receiving assistance being children, he said.

“Each time we talk with a hungry person helps us rediscover the purpose of our charity, why we need the food safety program and why refrigerated trucks matter,” he said.

All help feed hungry people.

The shift in grocery stores from rows of canned goods to selling more cold, refrigerated food has changed the supply of donated food, has required Second Harvest to expand its cold storage with trucks and massive coolers and freezers to handle donated food at the proper temperature with the proper transportation to assure food safety.

“Fresh cucumbers from a local garden can make as much difference as a truckload of potatoes from a Central Washington farm in helping the sons and daughters, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas who need help,” he said.  “No matter where the food comes from, we need to be ready to move it where it’s most needed.”

Second Harvest connects community resources to feed people through empowerment, education and partnerships.  Last year it distributed 3.7 million pounds of food to its Spokane County food outlets, which serve 15,000 each month.

It provides 3 million pounds of food to 130 other charities in Spokane and 13.3 million pounds to more than 300 neighborhood food banks and meal centers that feed 48,000 people each week throughout the Inland Northwest.

The survey found that 65 percent of parents go without food so their children can eat, and 45 percent said it happens daily or weekly.  About 60 percent of adults without children skip meals when they run low on food, and for more than half of them it happens daily or weekly.

About 90 percent of households were able to pick up food from their neighborhood food bank within 24 hours of their need and nearly 64 percent said the food lasted a week or more.

About 65 percent of households  surveyed receive food stamps.

Of the clients, 11 percent are seniors 55 or older.

More than 55 percent of client households have children and a quarter are headed by single parents—83 percent of these by single mothers.

Three fourths of client households earn income below the federal poverty level and 94 percent, less than half Spokane County’s median family income.  More than 40 percent have at least one member working full or part time and one-third of adults cannot work because of a disability.

About 21 percent receive financial assistance for housing, 34 percent of adults and 12 percent of children have no health insurance, and 48 percent have unpaid medical or health bills.

The Spokane County emergency food bank network includes Airway Heights Baptist Church, American Indian Center, Better Living Center, Caritas, City Gate, East SNAP, Northeast Pantry, Our Place, the Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, Spokane Valley Partners and the Cheney, Deer Park, Mead, Medical Lake, North County, Northwest Ecumenical, Otis Orchards, Southside, Spangle and Westminster Presbyterian food banks.

For information, call 534-6678.


Copyright © 2007 - The Fig Tree - By Mary Stamp