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Food Insecurity & Local Organizations Fighting to Eradicate It, Plus Food for Fines

Posted on March 23, 2022 at 6:00 am

By Erin Dodge

At all of our libraries, we’re holding our annual food drive Food for Fines, after a 2-year hiatus, during National Library Week: April 3–9.

For every non-perishable item of food donated, $2 will be cleared from the library cardholder’s account for overdue fees, up to $20 (more details below).

Anyone can donate food, even those without fees. Donated food will be collected for local food banks.

Most people tend to think of giving food, time, or money to food banks during the fall and winter holidays because family celebrations around food are prevalent. However, food insecurity is a year-round problem.

I recently got a chance to ask Angie Kelleher, Director of Development and Communications, of Spokane Valley Partners Food Bank and Family Services, some questions about food insecurity and what changes the food bank has seen since the pandemic. Here’s what she shared.

Q & A with Angie Kelleher from Spokane Valley Partners

Erin: What is food insecurity and who does it affect?

Angie: One in seven people in Spokane County doesn’t get enough to eat to live a healthy life, and for children, the statistic is even grimmer. The projected increase in childhood food insecurity is 27% over pre-pandemic levels. Food insecurity rates are highest for single mother households and households with incomes below the poverty line. In 2020, 35.3% of households had incomes below the federal poverty line and were food insecure.

Food insecurity can amount to reduced quality and variety of food as well as one or more household members reducing intake because of poverty or lacking resources.

There is no single face of food insecurity. It impacts school children, parents who skip meals to ensure their kids get enough to eat, as well as the elderly on low, fixed incomes.

Erin: What is Food for Thought and whom does the program help?

Angie: Childhood hunger was a crisis in Spokane County before COVID-19. The pandemic has worsened that crisis and also made it visible in new ways.

Our Food for Thought program works to eliminate weekend food insecurity for children. This food insecurity threatens a child’s well-being and potential for success. We work closely with school staff to identify students in need and supply food every Friday for each child to help improve school performance, academic success, and cognitive development.

Items distributed include easy-to-prepare meals like mac and cheese, soups, oatmeal, milk, and snacks. In terms of pandemic impact, Food for Thought served 63% more meals in 2020 versus 2019.

With our eyes opened to the new depth of childhood hunger, we are prepared to continue to meet the needs of children in our area by developing pantries in schools for added support throughout the school day.

Erin: What changes in the needs of the community have you seen during the pandemic?

Angie: Gratefully Spokane Valley Partners has been poised to meet the changing demands of the community through the pandemic. Through city and county CARES grants, we were able to mobilize our services. In addition, we removed barriers to service including geographic and information requirements.

With school closures, we adapted how we served students who were learning remotely by delivering the food through the school bus system. Partnerships with senior service agencies were strengthened so our most vulnerable neighbors were provided groceries to their homes.

During a single month last year, we experienced an 821% increase in new families seeking help from our services compared to the same month the prior year. This extreme increase occurred in the midst of volunteer withdrawal.

We have had to do more with less people and that required innovation. The current increased need for energy assistance is astonishing with over 57 percent more households needing assistance in 2022 compared to the same time in 2020. We have seen the needs grow from food to rental assistance to energy assistance.

Erin: How can people help and support Spokane Valley Partners in your mission?

Angie: While efforts to reduce hunger and poverty in our community have made a positive impact on the lives of many residents, the work to completely eradicate food insecurity continues. And we can’t do it alone.

It takes a concerted effort from generous individuals, compassionate volunteers, and organizations with a passion to help provide the most basic and fundamental resources to those in need. To get help or give help, you can visit the Spokane Valley Partners website.

More about Food for Fines

During our celebration of National Library Week, we’re collecting food donations for local food banks. This means that you can support our community and reduce your overdue library fines with a donation of food at your local library.

The Food for Fines event is April 3–9. Your donations go to regional food banks serving Spokane County.

For every non-perishable food item, $2 will be forgiven from a cardholder’s account, up to a maximum of $20 per library account. Food for Fines donations are applied to overdue and/or damaged items fees and cannot be applied to lost-item charges or accounts referred to collection.

Everyone is welcome to donate. Anyone can bring in a non-perishable food item to help households and children facing food insecurity.

In many cases during past donation drives, our generous library customers have contributed much more food to the collection barrels than what was needed to pay their fines. Some had no overdue fees at all and still contributed food throughout National Library Week.

This April watch for the food bins at all District libraries.

Erin Dodge

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