Addressing food insecurity in Walla Walla

Alanna Sherman, Columnist

Walla Walla county experiences an overall food insecurity rate of 11.6 percent, and is ranked the 28th most food insecure county in the state of Washington. The child food insecurity rate stands at 16 percent, with about 2,040 children struggling to meet their needs of food intake. No one should be forced to worry about if and how they will eat food everyday, especially young children. 

Food insecurity refers to the lack of access for individuals and families to receive necessary food for survival. Food insecurity can result in difficult situations for many people as they are forced to decide between which survival necessity to pay for. 

This can look like paying rent or electricity over groceries in order to ensure shelter, or paying expensive medical bills over receiving nutrients. Food insecurity leads to severe rates of stress and mental strain, drastic health problems due to hunger, or possible mortality. 

As of 2017, 20.73 percent of the Walla Walla county population had low access to grocery stores. This is extremely important to address because the distance one must travel for food can be a huge obstacle. 

Many people facing food insecurity are also low-income, meaning it’s difficult to afford transportation, especially for long distances. This population often consists of working class people, who may be working multiple jobs for long hours, causing limited time for grocery shopping especially for large families or households. 

Grocery stores in rural areas tend to be more expensive, with limited affordable fresh fruits, vegetables and other dietary needs. The nearest grocery stores to downtown Walla Walla are The Market by Andy’s, Foodscape and Safeway, all of which sell high-priced food options. 

Cheaper grocery options include Grocery Outlet and Super 1 Foods, or traveling outside of Walla Walla to College Place in order to find a Walmart Supercenter. Although the existence of these options is helpful, the impact they create can be limited when it is difficult for people to access them. 

It is extremely important for those of us with full and easy accessibility to our necessary resources to advocate for systemic change in order to transition into permanent food security for all people. Privileged voices are far more respected and listened to in the United States, so it is our job to put in the time and energy to prevent food insecurity because if we don’t, things may never change. 

There are also many options available to create temporary food accessibility in order to make an impact on human survival here in Walla Walla. 

The Blue Mountain Action Council, or BMAC, is a nonprofit organization in Walla Walla that works to distribute food, housing, employment assistance and more. BMAC is always looking for donations and volunteers to allow them to assist as many people as possible. 

Whitman students can also join the Food Justice Project through the Student Engagement Center. Food Justice is a group of students partnered with BMAC that helps to organize and distribute food donations around the greater Walla Walla community. 

It is also extremely important to reduce food insecurity amongst the Whitman community. In the Glover Alston Center, there is a food pantry and clothing closet to ensure that the entire Whitman community is receiving necessary resources. Donations are always welcome and encouraged to the pantry and closet so that all students can gain a better experience at Whitman. 

Some of us are granted the privilege of never worrying about whether or not we will be able to afford and access food, and it is important that we use our privilege to help others. If more of us spoke up against the enforcement of food insecurity and put our energy and resources forward to feed more people, we could possibly save lives.