Hunger is unacceptable. That is what many of us engaged in the fight against hunger say to ourselves every day.
It is unacceptable that a senior citizen is faced with the choice of nutrition or medication. It is unacceptable that one in four children in our county go to bed hungry or that a glass of milk has become a privilege.
Client numbers in Whatcom County have increased 65 percent since 2007. At the Ferndale Food Bank our numbers have increased 44 percent since 2010. In the Ferndale School District 51 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunch and these statistics are consistent throughout the county.
What is the face of hunger in your mind? Is it an emaciated child with ribs exposed? The current reality is that the face of hunger is obesity, childhood diabetes, adult on-set diabetes or heart disease.
If you go into the grocery store and are mindful of the cost of food, which items are the least expensive? Recently I bought four apples at $1.69 per pound and my total was $6.46. For someone making minimum wage that purchase alone would equate to almost an hour's net pay. Growing up with four brothers we easily went through 5 to 6 gallons of milk a week. In today's world that would cost a working poor family $60 a month!
Foods low in nutritional value are cheap and become the affordable option for many households.
Our county food banks try to provide shelf-stable, nutritionally sound non-perishable foods and healthly produce.
At the Ferndale Food Bank we are very deliberate with our mission. We seek to provide pantry stables like sugar, flour, pasta, oats, rice, lentils and split peas. Our goal is to give our clients meal makers that will provide dinner, leftovers and maybe a soup. Instead of buying canned chili for the shelf we offer the fixings for a pot of chili that could last a family two days.
Food banks are a bandage in the fight against food insecurity. If we are the bandage, you can be the triple antibiotic. You can actively fight the disease of hunger and be an antidote for hopelessness and desperation that many families feel.
What can I do, you may ask yourself? Allocate part of your home garden to your local food bank. When there is a sale at your favorite grocery store, say 15 cans for $10, buy extra for the hungry. Organize quarterly food collection in your neighborhood. One of our donors drops off more than 1,000 pounds of canned foods every 3 to 4 months. She uses her garage as the collection point.
This summer promises to be a busy one. All of the county food banks are seeing an uptick in clients because of the agricultural workers and because many unemployed folks going back to work are making much less than they did before.
We are here to help because of the generous support from each community. Keep it coming!
One woman from Redeemer Lutheran church gave me a generous donation a while back and her comment was, "Now that I know, how can I not respond. My life has been blessed by comparison."
In Ferndale there are many ways to help to support our work and mission to alleviate hunger:
• On the first Saturday of every month (from 8-10 a.m.) we hold a pancake breakfast at the United Church of Ferndale. For a suggested donation of $5 you receive an awesome breakfast and you help the food bank. A Christian biker club holds their monthly meeting at our breakfast -- what a great idea!
• July 13-14 we are having a food drive at Haggen in Ferndale. An old-styled fire truck will be there for the kids to explore. Come visit and help the hungry!
• Aug. 10 we will present a screening of the documentary "A Place at the Table." Join us for a countywide event at Pioneer Park. We will have light refreshments and a engaging panel discussion. Admission is free - donations will be accepted.
• Aug. 12-17 the Northwest Washington Fair has generously partnered with the Whatcom County food banks to run a food drive. Donations bins will be located at all three entrances. With a three-item nonperishable donation you will receive a raffle ticket - prizes will be announced daily culminating in a grand prize on the last day of the fair. Thank you, Northwest Washington Fair!
None of us at county food banks could do our work without you. Thank you for making the fight against hunger a priority!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Suzanne Nevan is executive director of Ferndale Food Bank.