Arriving in the mail today, was a newsletter from Northwest Harvest. I thought it a perfect time to share its contents, as I’m sure it reflects what’s occurring in most of the country these days. What better time to give thanks to an organization dedicated to helping the less fortunate survive, than during the month of Thanksgiving. Entitled “Where We Stand,” it’s written by Executive Director, Shelley Rotondo.
Northwest Harvest has seen Washington suffer more than one economic crisis during our 43-year fight against hunger. Many more people are now hungry and in need, pushed over the edge by the recent recession. If any good has come from these troubled times, it is that every community has gained a heightened awareness of hunger. Sadly, for far too many people, this new understanding is informed by firsthand experience.
News that the recession ended months ago makes little difference to those who still face the daily stress of struggling to provide for their families. Many of our clients and their families are newcomers to food banks, or former donors now turning to us for food. Across the state, people have lost their jobs or had their hours or benefits reduced. And we see so many young people unable to compete for work in a state where unemployment currently hovers around 9 percent.
Statewide, Northwest Harvest and the partners of our network are now providing over 634,000 services every month–a 35 percent increase since the start of the recession. A recent U.S. Census Report showed that 43.6 million Americans were living in poverty in 2009. This number, which includes over 800,000 Washingtonians, is the largest in the 51 years that estimates have been published.
More than half of those served by Northwest Harvest and our partners are children and the elderly. They are the most susceptible to health problems related to hunger and malnutrition, and have the least control over their circumstances. Children make up only 25 percent of the U.S. population, but 36 percent of those living in poverty. More than 224,000 of Washington’s children live below the federal poverty level, and roughly half of Washington infants are recipients of WIC (Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children).
Nearly all state basic service agencies have faced severe budget cuts and expect their resources to dwindle further in the coming year. With more than 1 in 7 Washingtonians relying on food stamps–a 21 percent increase from just one year ago–we know that deeper service reductions could have a devastating impact our clients. As the only Washington-based food bank distributor operating statewide, we are being called on more than ever before and in all corners of the state.
For all of these reasons, Northwest Harvest has grown rapidly, securing more than 24 million pounds of food for both of the last two years, a 33 percent increase over years before the recession. We can feed a family of three a nutritious meal for 67 cents, and as the state’s first food bank distributor to focus on nutrition, we have decades of experience promoting health while fighting hunger. Additionally, 93 cents of every dollar donated to Northwest Harvest goes directly to help those we serve.
But we need your help more than ever. In the first three months of our fiscal year, we did not meet budget goals for food or fund-raising. Meanwhile, many of the underlying causes of hunger are getting worse, bringing more and more people to their community hunger programs.
Northwest Harvest was founded because of those who would not stand idly by while their neighbors suffered. We have been able to continue expanding our services in response to the growing need because of the support of communities all across the state.
We are grateful to all who support us with gifts of any size. Whether you can give money, food or volunteer time, you are strengthening the safety net so many of our neighbors now need.
Among the many who donate their time, Holland America Lines provides its employees bus transportation to Northwest Harvest’s warehouse, to volunteer a few hours during their workday. It’s an annual event, occurring over 4 or 5 days. Family members are invited to join in the donation of time and effort.
for humanitarian efforts, huge hugs…hugmamma.