LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - Make best use of local food

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While many of us enjoy this summer's local produce and our Farmers' Market, we also need to consider the people who don't have access to the same nutritious food.

As noted in an edition of the U-B, funding for the Food Assistance Program (FAP), which serves 10,700 legal immigrant cases in Washington, has been cut in half; this legislative decision will affect 70 households in Walla Walla County.

Some of these legal immigrants are not in households eligible for SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, because there are no members in the household who have been in the country long enough to qualify.

Walla Walla is a bounteous Valley, but our many food banks and kitchens frequently need better and larger produce donations. Often it's easier to let our abundance go to waste than to make the effort of distributing our extras to people in need - people who now may have little protection against hunger.

However, we have community organizations that do the work of harvesting excess crops and distributing them to folks in need. I am fortunate to belong to Walla Walla Gleaners, a group that distributes to its members and to food banks. While many of our membership simply enjoy the activity of that second harvest, a number of our households also depend heavily on the gleaned crops.

What counts is we do the work together and we respond quickly and gratefully to any farmers and gardeners who need us in their fields, orchards or backyards. Farmers have to make a living, too.

At the same time, between their generosity and that of individual gardeners, Walla Walla Gleaners were able to harvest 17,500 pounds of food last year alone and send more than 9,000 pounds of that harvest to local food banks and kitchens.

Gleaners are just one part of a continually evolving network between farmers, backyard gardeners, consumers, donors, voters and eventually legislators focused on preventing the pain of hunger in a bountiful Valley.

We must continue to build on these connections and work creatively toward solutions. Making the best use of our locally grown food requires time, energy, compassion and thoughtful partnerships.

If we embrace this work and remain committed to it, we can help ensure that those who live here have the sustenance they need.

Jessica Salvador

member, Walla Walla Gleaners

Walla Walla

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