Local group networks to fight hunger

Like most other Eastside cities, Redmond has a Nourishing Network food program, and like most other chapters, its work is largely done behind the scenes.

On a recent afternoon, a group of representatives from various community outreach and service organizations met at the Redmond Community Center to discuss what they had on their plates.

Groups ranging from the United Methodist Church, which offers free meals on Wednesday nights, to Friends of Youth and the senior center were represented as they coordinated to fight hunger.

While other network chapters have various focuses, LouAnn Ballew of the senior center’s advisory committee who was moderating the meeting, said their chapter focuses specifically on providing nutrition and food to folks in need.

Sandee Palmquist is involved in one such effort called the food box program, which supplies food to families of elementary and middle school students who use free or reduced meals while they are on Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks.

They began the program last school year and focused on Einstein Elementary School, which has nearly 40 percent of its students in the free or reduced meals program.

It was so successful, with more than 20 families served, that this year it is being expanded to Redmond elementary and middle schools.

More than 20 percent of students at Redmond Elementary are on free or reduced meals.

To help facilitate this, the network will be running a food drive at each Redmond Saturday Market in October to gear up for Thanksgiving.

They will also be collecting items like toiletries, which Palmquist said are often overlooked in donations but are essential, especially to low-income or homeless families.

Boxes, which cost around $50 each and come with a wide array of perishables and non-perishables, are distributed two days before the holiday break.

Other programs that are put on by groups associated with the network include a summer lunch program by Open Kitchen, which served some 24,000 lunches this year, or around 400 per week.

Open Kitchen also provides the free meals at the Redmond United Methodist Church.

A family homeless shelter will also be rotating to the church and hosts single men as well as women and children.

The Redmond Senior Center was also represented. The organization runs a hot meals program where food is available for only $3 five days a week.

According to Northwest Harvest, Washington is the 23rd hungriest state in the United States, with one in five children living in households that suffer from food insecurity.

Feeding America estimates that there are nearly 265,000 food insecure people in King County, or 13 percent of all residents.

With an average meal cost of $3.45, Feeding America estimates that there is a $163,877,000 annual food budget shortfall in the county.

Food insecurity is the United States Department of Agriculture’s measure of lack of access to enough food for an active and healthy life for all members of a household.