Roughly one-ninth of the world’s population does not have enough food to live a healthy and active life . In the United States, 5.8 million households are food insecure and 40.6 million Americans rely on the Supplemental Assistance Program (SNAP) . In Washington state, one in seven people rely on the SNAP program -- more than half are children . So, how do we combat hunger in Washington?
There are over 200 food pantries located within Washington, serving more than one million people . With budget cuts to the SNAP program, each year becomes a harder struggle to provide food for the growing number of those in need. Since 2008, Washington has cut twelve billion dollars from the state’s overhead budget for programs, such as SNAP, and defined as a “basic needs service” . With 17 of state residents relying on local food banks, and 14 percent relying on the SNAP program, food insecurity is a vast problem that needs to be addressed.
In Bellingham, Wash., the local food bank serves roughly 18,000 people on a regular basis, more than half of which are seniors or kids . More than 1,350 families receive assistance from the Bellingham Food Bank every week . So, how does a single food bank keep up with the needs of so many people? By partnering with the community.
To provide healthy and nutritional food to its clients, the Bellingham Food Bank partners with local farmers, local organizations and volunteers. By partnering with community farmers it is able to start programs such as the “Small Potatoes Gleaning Project” in which volunteers glean more than 200,000 pounds of produce that would normally get tilled back into the ground after the harvest. They are also able to receive fresh fruits and vegetables in the spring and summer.
Local organizations and businesses, such as Edaleen Dairy, assist the Bellingham Food Bank with reduced milk prices for the food bank’s “Milk Money” program. As 35 percent of the food bank’s clients are children, the ability to provide them with a consistent supply of milk is vital.
The food bank also recruits volunteers to build and maintain raised garden beds for their “Garden Project” to provide program participants with free resources for two years.
Lastly, Bellingham Food Bank serves on a no-questions-asked basis, much like the food pantry at Western Washington University, where people do not have to prove financial need, but do need to provide Bellingham residency, to receive food.
To combat food insecurity in communities throughout the United States, food banks must receive support and participation from local community members to ensure consistent nutritious food is supplied to those in need.