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Survey finds education level of food bank clients on the rise

Second Harvest of the Inland Northwest’s 24th annual client survey of 689 men and women using its 20 Spokane County food pantries reveals similar statistics to previous years, except that clients are increasingly educated, said Rod Wieber, director of development.

Nearly 10 percent have bachelor’s degrees or higher, more than five percent graduated from a business, trade or technical school, and 35 percent have earned a two-year degree or have taken some college courses.

We have had many new clients who have not used food banks before.  They are coming because they were laid off or work fewer hours.”

A common thread with previous years is that the majority of clients eat fewer fruits and vegetables than recommended, and 42 percent of clients eat one or no fruits or vegetables each day. 

Many have health conditions: 15 percent diabetic, 14 percent high blood pressure and 11 percent high cholesterol.  Nearly 70 percent have unpaid medical bills.

Because of the desire to provide more produce, about 60 percent of the food provided last year was perishable—more produce from growers and the agriculture industry, plus more frozen food.

About 34 percent are children under 18.

In contrast to when Rod started working for Second Harvest four years ago—when 11 percent of their clients were seniors—6 percent are now seniors.

We continue to see unprecedented need for meals and food centers,” he continued.  The Medical Lake food bank director said that in August 2009, they served 90 families, but served 170 families in August 2010.

“We continue to hear of growing numbers using food banks in our service area,” he said.  “We did 117 mobile food bank distributions from July 2009 to June 2010, and expect this year to do 200.”

Last year, Second Harvest distributed 19.7 million pounds of food, and Rod anticipated it will distribute 21 million pounds this year.

On target to do more, we hope donations will continue as anticipated,” he said.  “The community has been supportive, so we have been able to meet needs through food drives, donations and volunteers, as well as food producers and businesses.

Volunteers come Monday and Wednesday evenings for Help the Hungry nights, boxing onions, potatoes and carrots, or filling backpacks with food for school children from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

About 38 percent of households needing food assistance have one or more family members working full or part time.

Of those using the food banks, 23 percent said they were temporarily unemployed, 11 percent said they work low-wage jobs and 20 percent said their fixed incomes are too small to cover their living expenses.  About 72 percent live below the federal poverty level.

For information, call 534-6678.

Copyright © December 2010 - The Fig Tree