Editorial: ‘Food insecurity’ remains a national and local issue

Most of us who live on Vashon are extraordinarily fortunate. We’ll enjoy wonderful holiday spreads this week — plates heaping with turkey and potatoes, fresh vegetables and delectable desserts.

At the same time, as Yvonne Pitrof reports, the lines at the Vashon Maury Community Food Bank, which she helms, continue to grow longer. A lingering recession is taking a toll. Those who can’t find jobs are exhausting unemployment benefits as well as their savings, and what experts in the social services call “food insecurity” continues to haunt this country of so much excess.

According to a federal study released earlier this month, three out of 20 American families — or 17.4 million households — struggled to afford basic foods in 2009. That translates into 50 million Americans, or 16.6 percent of the population, who had problems getting adequate nutrition last year.

Washington hovered near that national average, with 14 percent of its population inadequately fed, according to the federal report.

Vashon is, for the most part, a place of affluence, and when it comes to food, we have much to be grateful for. Consider the many small-scale farms delivering up organic fruit and vegetables week after week. Or the new lunch program at the Vashon Island School District, which is providing nutritious meals to our kids nearly every day.

But even here, plenty of people are struggling. The Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness has witnessed a steady increase in participants at their twice-weekly dinners. And at the food bank, where volunteers hand out 20,000 to 30,000 pounds of food each month, Pitrof sees Islanders who face additional challenges — paying monthly utility bills, for instance, or covering the costs of childcare during school holidays that many families relish.

The food elves have been standing at the Island’s main intersection lately, slowing down traffic as they seek donations for the food bank. The first weekend they were out on the streets jingling their cans, they report, they brought in $5,000, a remarkable sign of the Island’s generosity.

But much more is needed to ensure our neighbors are fed, warm and safe through this holiday season. Inside this issue is our annual gift guide, where on page 13 we note the various organizations that help our Island neighbors. We hope those of us who have plenty will support these important Vashon organizations and our friends and neighbors in need.

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