My name is Lauren Fein, I am a second year graduate student in the Public Health Department here at Oregon State. This summer I interned at the Klickitat County Health Department where I helped to conduct part of a community food assessment you will hear about in this session.
To get you oriented to Klickitat County we have provided some brief demographic facts. Klickitat county is named after the Klickitat tribe of the Yakima Indian nation. The county lies in the Columbia River Gorge about an hour east of Portland and has a population of around 20,000. The median household income is approximately $42,000 with nearly 16% percent of residents living below the poverty line. Over 16% of the county population uses food stamps. The county seat is in Goldendale, there is an additional satellite health department location in White Salmon.
Pictured here is one of Klickitat County’s newest industries, that of energy generation through wind-power. Klickitat has waning timber and manufacturing industries. The county makes some money from the landfill it operates which takes waste from neighboring counties, as well as tourism as a result of its white water rafting, fishing, hiking, cycling, and wine country. The county also has a fairly substantial agriculture industry.
While the county does have a substantial ag industry; much of the food produced in the county has to be processed before it can be eaten. These products include wine grapes, cattle, wheat, barley, and other grains. In addition Klickitat County is 10 th in the state for fruit production: fruit sales make up half of the county’s ag sales and totaled $57 million in 2007, There are 893 farms in the county…which begs the question, why is there food insecurity here?
Rural Food Security 101: The WHO defines Food security as when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life. An analysis conducted by the Children’s Alliance in 2008, titled Hungry in Washington, ranked Klickitat County as the fourth highest food insecure county in the state, stating that “nearly 20% of residents have to worry about where they are going to find their next meal.” The size of the county and the shear distance from many communities to adequate grocery stores makes for other struggles in accessing food from within the county. Some residents have to travel between 120 and 150 miles roundtrip to get to the grocery store. Many of the county’s residents cross state lines into Oregon to purchase food at lower costs at supermarkets in Hood River and The Dalles, believing that the cost of gas will make up for the greatly reduced food prices at larger chain stores like Wal Mart and Safeway. Many small grocers in Klickitat County, were stunned when the new Wal Mart proved to be a mighty competitor for business, despite being well over an hour’s drive away. Of additional concern is the lack of fresh produce, low-fat dairy products, and lean meats available in nearly all of the small markets throughout the county. Food Stamp Allotment?
The What, Why, and How of a Community Food Assessment What is it? Needs, Assets, Potential Solutions Producers Why do one? Engage community Build partnerships Know what people need; not just assumption How? Build partner and community buy in? Gather data Assess needs How do we get surveys back? Survey changes based on region, cultural competency in small, rural communities
The Thrifty Meal Plan is set of recipes, meal plans, and grocery shopping lists to assist low-income families and food stamp recipients with the challenges of providing a healthy, well-balanced diet for they and their families. The Thrifty plan is of course the least expensive of four meal plans; the others being a “low-cost” plan, a “moderate cost plan” and a “liberal plan.” The Thrifty Meal plan is also used to assess food costs and allot food stamp benefits around the nation. The Thrifty Meal plan attempts to find the lowest average cost for a given shopping list and utilizes this amount to determine how much money to give families utilizing Supplemental Nutrition programs.
Assessing Food Security
The purpose of conducting the grocery store survey was to determine how those numbers relate to food costs in Klickitat County…given that the amounts are not adjusted for by region, we wanted to know whether or not it was realistic to be able to afford the thrifty meal plan in rural Washington where access and availability make food much more expensive.
We arrived at this number by pricing out each of the items on the Thrifty Meal Plan at a sample of 7 grocery stores in Klickitat county. Each of the stores was missing at least of few items from the list so we accounted for this by pricing out the average cost of each item and then adding the driving distance multiplied by the federal mileage amount of $.55 to each shopping list. Obviously some stores were somewhat lower than this and others substantially higher. Of greatest interest was the price difference between stores in staple goods like milk, bread, and cereal. Milk for example, ranged from $2.50 a gallon in some stores to $5.00 a gallon in others. Cereal cost as much as $6 for a 12 oz box in some locations and in others could cost as little as $1.88 for an 18 oz box…of course to get these lower prices families have to be able to drive to neighboring towns with larger grocery stores. Klickitat county, like most rural communities, has no public transit.
My role with the KCHD was to conduct a grocery store survey of each of the food stores in the county…which was how we were able to get the data from the previous slide. Shown here is an example of a produce section in one of Klickitat County’s full service grocery stores. Smaller stores around the county usually had only a small basket full of apples, a few bags of salad mix, some potatoes, onions, carrots, and a few other items if they hadn’t gone bad already. The process of conducting the food store survey entailed creating a survey tool using the thrifty meal plan shopping list, contacting each of the store owners and asking to survey their stores, visiting each store, and finding as many items from the list as they carry and pricing them out by location. Some store owners in the community were very amenable to the process and willingly helped me find items, happily pointing out their whole wheat bread, and the limited produce sections on which they prided themselves. Others were concerned about the county’s interest in their business and were less than excited to see me. More than once I had to explain I was not there to inspect the hygiene of the store. The majority of small grocers do much of the stocking themselves, taking weekly trips into Portland to buy produce and other goods at Costco or Winco. They have to mark up the prices of their goods to make up for their own gas and time getting back and forth to the city. Several of the small grocers were struggling to reinvigorate their small towns with a reliable source of food. In two communities, the stores had new owners who had taken over the grocery store in the last few years and were struggling to gain trust from the community and provide for local food needs. Both store owners were immensely invested in their communities and took great pains to provide for their towns by sponsoring local athletic teams, donating to every cause that came through the door, and even having a food wish list at the counter.
After assessing each of the grocery stores, I was able to analyze the data and produce a report which we were able to give back to the grocers explaining the process, and meet with them one-on-one to discuss the results, as well as our hopes for enhancing the food security of the county. Some of our suggestions to grocers included carrying low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and a wider selection of fruits and vegetables, whether fresh or frozen. We also attempted to gauge their interest in supplying more locally grown foods and partnering with the CFA group in additional efforts to address food security in the county.
These agencies were natural partners in conducting a food assessment because they all work in different capacities to increase the use of the local food system and improve the health and well-being of residents. Partnership among key agencies and individuals that have similar, well-defined missions is beneficial to successfully conducting a food assessment. Key partners that typically participate in depth in the food assessment process include agencies, organizations, and individuals that work on some level to address poverty, food, and/or health issues among local residents. Together, these partners can develop a shared mission for the CFA that encompasses their agency mission.
Introduce Key Partners; They are natural partners, agencies focused on similar goals; neighborhood groups, community level partners, survey tool, important for partners to share in decision making process, Qualities that are important for a CFA project team to strive for and nurture include: patience, inclusivity, good communication, respect and openmindedness, and shared decision-making in and ownership of the process.
1. Lauren Fein, Meghann Dallin,& Sarah Hackney Oregon Public Health Association Conference October 26 th , 2009 Implications for Food Insecure Communities throughout the Pacific Northwest
2. <ul><li>Population: 20, 377 </li></ul><ul><li>Median Household Income: $42,369 </li></ul><ul><li>Percent of population below poverty: 15.7% </li></ul><ul><li>Percent of population using Food Stamps: 16.2% </li></ul>
6. <ul><ul><li>What is it? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Determining Needs, Assets, & Potential Solutions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Why do one? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gathering Data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cultural Competency </li></ul></ul>
8. <ul><ul><li>Currently the USDA estimates that the Thrifty Meal Plan can be purchased for $583 for a family of four per month. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The maximum food stamp benefit for a family of four as of July 2009 is $668 per month. </li></ul></ul>