by Dennis Heinz, Hunters Food Bank
The Covid-19 “Stay at Home” order has certainly caused fear, grief and inconvenience for all of us over the last 90 days and will continue in some form for a while at least. This pandemic has sparked a huge rise in the people served at the Hunters Food Bank. Having volunteered at the Hunters Food bank for the last 5 years, I have seen many clients come for assistance. (When times are good for some they are not always for others). Some come once, some for a few weeks or a couple of months and some look for assistance nearly every month. It’s no surprise that many of our clients are senior citizens as the rate of hunger among seniors aged 60 and older has increased by 40% since 2001 nationally.
Food banks serve a daily purpose in most any community. When there is a serious national disaster like what we are going through now, food banks serve an even more vital priority of service. The Hunters Food Bank alone has seen a doubling of clients over the last 90 days. There are some 1,500 residents in the Hunters, Fruitland and Gifford area and the Hunters food bank helps about 200 – 250 of these people every month in regular times, of which about 100 -150 are senior citizens, with the balance made up of families. The pandemic put a strain on the food supply early on but as logistics were figured out and many area farmers stepped up with large donations of fruits and vegetables as well as the help of federal aid, food began to and has been flowing well now for a few weeks. It is a good thing too, as the number of people in need has dramatically risen the last 90 days here in the Hunters area. The food bank has been nearly cleaned out because of the need currently. The good news is that we are getting replenished!
There are individuals struggling to get by in every community across the country, but both poverty and food insecurity tend to be higher among residents of rural communities. In rural communities, many people lack enough resources to obtain the food they need due to factors including economic instability, financial insecurity, transportation barriers, and limited access to affordable food. Remember this that Nationally:
Only 48% of eligible seniors are enrolled and receiving SNAP benefits (formerly Food Stamps) making the local food bank vital at times not to mention during a pandemic.
63% of senior households are forced to choose between food and medical care. (I have seen this struggle with some of our clients.)
15% of families living in rural areas experience food insecurity.
These numbers play out right here in Hunters, the Fruitland Valley and Gifford. At the Hunters food bank “we always seem to manage” but things can get tight at times as well! The whole point of this article is to demonstrate that the Hunters Food bank plays a vital role in this community and your support is needed now more than ever. Pause for a moment to consider what if the food bank was not there to help this community? Even though the Hunters Food Bank receives Federal help it still has the responsibility for Ins. Utilities, Maintenance (replacing floors cost $5,000) etc.
To those who have supported the Hunters Food Bank in the past, “We Thank You”! If you have not donated before please send your donation to P.O. box 24, Hunters, Washington 99137. You can also follow us on Face Book at Hunters Food Bank.
When communities have access to healthy, well-balanced diets, everyone benefits.