Hunger rate is alarming in Washington state, says newspaper column

The Olympian


Washington State - The lack of an adequate food supply and the hunger associated with it are a serious problem in this state.

In fact, Washington has the second-highest hunger rate in the United States, second only to Oregon, according to the Center on Hunger and Poverty report on 1998-2000 data from Census Bureau surveys.

An alarming 289,000 households representing 5 percent of the state total are hungry at any given time because they can't afford to buy food.

Researchers are perplexed as to why Oregon, which topped the list at 6 percent, and Washington rank so high in this sorry statistic.

But the picture could actually be bleaker today since the data was collected before the dot-com economy went in the tank and before Boeing laid off thousands of workers.

As much as anything, the statistic is an economic indicator, reminding us that the working poor of this state are not making enough money to make ends meet.

Without family wage jobs, hunger can come knocking on the door.

And without a full economic recovery, the numbers, which are an economic indicator of sorts, are likely to grow worse.

It's a condition the operators of the 320 food banks statewide know all too well.

The five food banks in Thurston County are serving about 1,600 families per month, or nearly 60,000 individuals in the past year.

"It's not the bums sitting on the streets," noted Susan Eichrodt, program manager for the state's Emergency Food Assistance Program. "It's actual working families."

What we're seeing in the statistics in part is a tale of two Washingtons: the urban and rural, the have and have-nots.

For instance, food bank usage in the state's 31 rural counties increased 26 percent between 1997 and 2000, Eichrodt said.

By comparison, the eight urban counties saw a 6 percent increase.

In fiscal year 2001, food bank visits statewide totaled 5.5 million, shooting up to 6.2 million in fiscal year 2002, which just ended July 31.

The average client visits a food bank five times a year.

"We're seeing more and more of the working poor," Eichrodt added.

The study by the Center on Hunger and Poverty based at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., also tracks food insecurity.

Food insecurity occurs whenever the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods is limited or uncertain.

During the three-year study period, Washington had the 10th-highest rate of food insecurity in the nation with a total of 12.93 percent of all households. The national rate was 10.8 percent.

The collective data on hunger and food insecurity is one more compelling reason to support local food banks through donations of food and money.

And it brings home the need for a healthy economy and family wage jobs.

Comment:  So let's look at the scorecard: We are # 12 of the 12 western states for
being anti-business; we have the HCP, the Northwest Forest Plan, the full
impacts of ESA and the CWA, with Stormwater Regulations looming; and we've
had a Democrat as Governor for almost 18 years and why are we #2 on the
Hunger List?

Plus a 2 billion dollar hole in our state budget!!

How much better can it get.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref.]


Back to Current Edition Citizen Review Archive LINKS Search This Site