Hunger Action Awareness Month

Hunger Action Awareness Month

September is Hunger Action Awareness Month.  At FISH we strive to help the community understand the face of hunger here in Kittitas County.  Throughout the month our Facebook posts and this webpage will help our neighbors see what hunger looks like, who’s hungry and what can be done about it.  

Did you know?

I want to tell you the story of Greg, who lives in one of the tucked away homeless encampments.  Greg is not a former addict, though many people assume that he must be.  Instead he dropped out of high school early, feeling that there was just nothing there for him.  He got construction jobs and did pretty well.  He had a place to stay and enough money to live off of.  But the recession hit him hard.  When housing markets tanked, so did his work.  Now he can’t find a way back into the workplace.  There are many people without jobs, and he doesn’t have an address, a smart phone with email or even a place to shower.  So right now, he’s asking for help on street corners and trying to get by. 

Very few of our clients are homeless.  While some live in Ellensburg permanently and use FISH often, others come through and use FISH once.  In our survey last summer, only 3.46% of our clients identified as homeless.  Some couch surf, some live in their cars, some live on the streets.  It’s important to realize that while this is a particularly vulnerable portion of our population, it is also a very small portion of it.  Last year the Cold Weather Shelter, which houses the homeless overnight during the coldest months, averaged 11 people a night.  With a population of roughly 18,000, this means 0.06% of the population is homeless.  Another way to think look at this: The annual Department of Commerce Point in Time survey found 26 people living in Kittitas County who were homeless.  Kittitas County’s population is just over 46,000.  That’s the same 0.06%.  FISH sees a lot of these people, and helps them all.

Did you know?

Elanor is divorced and has two children.  She works a good job, but doesn’t make enough to make ends meet.  Each month she picks a bill she cannot pay, rotating them so they do not go into collections.  Christmas and birthdays are hard, particularly when it is a friend of her child who has the birthday and doesn’t know she can’t afford a gift.  Her children have learned to tell themselves, “oh, there’s not enough money for that is there?”  She would like to give her kids everything, but there just isn’t quite enough to go around.  

A single parent, with two kids, in Washington State needs to make $49,358 annually to adequately fund food, child care, medical, housing, and transportation.  That’s a lot of money!  A retail worker makes an average of $24,065 in this state.  That includes the wages in Seattle and the rest of the “west side”.  A cashier makes an average of $23,004 and a food service worker make $19,801.  These are very low numbers when compared to the amount needed. Half of all Washingtonians ages 20-64 who live in poverty are working or actively looking for work, but it’s not enough.   Remember that single parents are also trying to buy school supplies, clothing, and even utilities.  This doesn’t take into account school pictures, Halloween costumes, holiday gifts, after school activities, and other things which help a child have a good, meaningful childhood.  There are options: subsidized housing, the bus, and the food bank.  But that will help with the shortfall, not the holiday gifts.  FISH strives to help by providing food, serving meals weekly and to kids in the summer, and even equipping children for school at Back to School Night. 

Did you know?

Here is another story.  Mary has five children.  Three with her ex-husband, one brand new baby with her current boyfriend and one “step” child.  All of them are under 10.  She left her husband when he hit her one too many times.  Her boyfriend watches the kids while she volunteers to receive credit for their housing.  However, without any money coming into the household, they have used every service they would find.  Subsidized housing, WIC, Basic Food Program, FISH and many others.  Still, they struggle to make ends meet.  Gifts from friends, extra help by their parents and constant support from their community make it possible for them to continue, but not to thrive.  

Two in five children, that’s 40%, in Washington State live in households which struggle to put food on the table.  Choosing between rent and food is painful, and two in five children live with the consequences of that choice.  In Washington, Deep Poverty is considered $9,765 or less.  Annually.  That’s $813.75 a month at best.  Poverty is $19,530 a year.  And a Low Income household makes $39,060 a year.  You’ll note that’s still less that then the $49,358 needed to adequately fund food, child care, medical, housing and transportation.   There are still compromises being made between bills and food in a low income household.  Just over 38% of FISH’s client households have children.  About 55% of our client households use the  Women, Infants, Children program (WIC), and 34% also utilize the Basic Food Program (formerly food stamps).  


Did you know?

Laura comes to FISH almost everyday. She is developmentally disabled and appreciates the warm atmosphere of FISH and the welcome she gets here. She talks with everyone, enjoys a Senior Nutrition lunch and then heads out to ride the buses with her friends. 

More than 46% of FISH households have someone who is disabled in their household.  This is much higher then the 12.9% of the population in Washington State. Many of them are developmentally disabled like Laura, while most of the rest are physically disabled. While some collect Disability Pay, others rely on family members, friends and FISH to provide them with not only food, but warmth and companionship.  For almost everyone, whether they are disabled or not, it is their networks that keep them afloat.  FISH is only one part of that network, and without other help they might not make it.  

Without her time at FISH, Laura might not get the nutrition she needs.  The FISH Senior Nutrition and Meals on Wheels programs allow seniors to eat at least one healthy meal most days.  It’s also true that Laura would not get the social interaction that helps stave off the worst metal problems of old age.  Socialization helps us feel better now, learn better and live longer.  Laura’s time at FISH helps her live a better, fuller life.  

Did you know?

Here’s another story.  Charles came to the Food Bank for the first time this week.  He and his son live alone, and he has a job.  He is also a disabled veteran of the US Army.  He has served his country, but now can’t make ends meet.  His son is a young, bright four year old who loved to play with the toys FISH has.  When they came in he asked is father “are we out of bread again?”

There are 3,366 veterans in Kittitas County according to the US Census Bureau.  That’s 7.3% of Kittitas’s population.  Yet 14% of FISH households report having a veteran.  These people, who have given their time to their country, are often left with disabilities that make it difficult for them.  Or perhaps they simply can’t find a job that pays enough.  The average Private First Class (E3) is making $23,173, which may not seem like enough.  However when you add medical and dental for the whole family, housing allowances, training and education and GI benefits, as well as the ability to save for the future, the total income is higher.  However, when a solider leaves the Army, unless they retire after 20 years, they will not keep most of their benefits or their pay.  Even if they do retire, there are decreases and sometimes delay in getting what they need.  The same is true for any military service.  Some of these veterans come to FISH to make ends meet.


Did you know?

Matthew is a student as CWU.  He’;s working on campus, but cannot work full time as he also has a full load of classes.  He lives with three other students in a rental house and has to pay 1/4 of the bills.  His financial aid only covers tuition and college expenses, not the other needs of students.  There were weeks where he would eat only meal a day.  He was overjoyed when he realized he could come to FISH for help.  He and his roommates make up one family of four and can get food twice a month like all other clients. 

Of FISH households with students, 40% of them are college students.  There are roughly 11,500 students at CWU, while Ellensburg boasts a population of 46,205.  Roughly 20% of the population in Ellensburg is at CWU.  There are also students studying at YVCC.  Community college students have a 42% likelihood of being food insecure, meaning they don’t know how they will eat through a whole month.  

FISH believes these students are vulnerable and valuable members of society.  They are residents of Kittitas County while they are here.  With the growing awareness of hunger on college campuses, FISH  strives to help all the members of our neighborhood.  


Did you know?

Wendy began at FISH as a trainee.  Through another program, she was able to get paid to volunteer for FISH five days a week.  She learned a great deal and was able to get a part time job.  She still volunteers one day a week. 

Catherine came to us from CWU.  She had a class she needed community service for and helped out in our warehouse.  When her time was done she asked: could she keep helping?  She also still helps out once a week.  

Bob wanted to get out of the house and spend some time working on his social skills.  He grocery guides for us twice a week, helping clients through the pantry.  

There are many, many volunteer stories.  Let me tell you one more.  

Macey comes in once a week with her caregiver.  She’s shy of people and doesn’t talk much.  She has a learning and a physical disability, but works just fine with a little help.  She sorts produce, looking for bad pieces.  It’s something done everyday at FISH.  She throws away the bad ones and someone else in the warehouse takes it to the buckets that are fed to some local pigs.  It’s time she’s out of her house.  It’s goo for her in many ways.  She’s strengthening and stretching herself to do something new and not so easy.  

FISH has 80 – 100 volunteers at a time working to help out their neighbors.  There are 114 shifts at FISH in one week.  Many people work more than one shift.  Others work several in one day.  Each shift is 3 – 4 hours.  That’s 400 hours a week. When compared to the 3.5 full time people (three part time and two full time), the number of volunteers greatly outstrips the staff.  FISH is run almost exclusively on volunteers help.   But it is rare that FISH has all the volunteers that it needs to make everything run smoothly, particularly in the summer months.  Even if you cannot give food or money, time and talent are always valued here.  



What can you do to help?

Support FISH!!  FISH is so much more than a food bank!  We’re a safe haven.  We’re a warm and comforting place.  We’re an opportunity.  We’re meal, or two or three.  We’re a resource.  We are a place of Hope.  

Whether you bring by some canned or fresh food to be distributed,  whether you donate what you can afford, whether you spend your time in our warehouse, our kitchen or our desk, you are helping.  You are helping FISH, you are helping the people I’ve been telling you about.  You’re helping your neighbors, who each have different stories and all have some basic needs.  

Help your neighbors.  Bring them Hope.