Food security means having access to enough affordable, nutritious food, and having food security promotes positive long-term health in individuals and a healthier community.
The Thurston Thrives Food Action Team identifies “food access” as a strategy to meet the goal “that healthy food is widely available to everyone.” Healthy foods include fresh produce, lean protein and whole grains.
A number of resources are available in Thurston County to increase food security for those in need.
The Thurston County Food Bank serves primarily low- to moderate-income individuals. Through its food rescue program, the Food Bank collects healthy foods from grocers, farmers and restaurants that would otherwise have been discarded, and instead distributes them to those in need. In 2014, the Food Bank served 49,000 people through its on-site and satellite/mobile food bank system. Hours and locations are available at thurstoncountyfoodbank.org.
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Senior Services for South Sound provides meals that meet one third of the daily nutritional needs of the seniors they serve. The program works with partners, including Garden Raised urban Bounty (GRuB), to provide local fresh produce to its clients.
In 2014, Senior Services served 66,700 meals to 1,620 seniors in Thurston County through its Community Dining Program and the Meals on Wheels program. More information about Meals on Wheels, the Community Dining Program and how to get Senior Nutrition Farmer’s Market vouchers (beginning June 1) is available at southsoundseniors.org.
The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires schools participating in the federal Free and Reduced-price Meal Program to serve nutritious meals. Schools must offer fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and limit sodium and fat content. To achieve this and increase access to healthy foods for their students, the Olympia and Tumwater school districts spent 12.5 percent of their food budgets on fresh produce during the 2013-2014 school year.
Summer meal programs help fill the food security gap in the summer, when children don’t have access to school lunches. In 2014, Parks and Recreation departments from the cities of Olympia, Tumwater and Lacey, along with the Thurston County Food Bank, served more than 41,500 lunches at 21 sites as part of the summer meal program.
Breastfeeding is the ultimate food security for babies, and gives the mother peace of mind, knowing she can feed her infant. Breastfeeding also provides a multitude of health benefits for mother and baby. Breastfeeding lowers the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and ovarian cancer in mothers. Breastfed babies are better protected from serious diseases, including asthma, obesity, diabetes, childhood leukemia and sudden infant death syndrome.
In 2013, 90 percent of Thurston County women breastfed their infants at birth. In Washington, only about 30 percent of women are able to meet the American Academy of Pediatrics goal of breastfeeding for a full year. The South Sound Breastfeeding Network and La Leche League are local resources that support mothers with their breastfeeding goals.
Many other organizations throughout our community assist those without access to enough food. If you are one of those people, search the Washington Information Network 2-1-1 website at win211.org for resources that can assist you.
Reach Dr. Rachel C. Wood, health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties, at 360-867-2501, email@example.com or @ThurstonHealth on Twitter.