Recent surveys of poverty in Whitman County done by the League of Women Voters and the Community Action Center found a number of pockets of poverty and food deserts. A recent article in the Sunday Lewiston Tribune told of an Asotin woman’s efforts to set up a place where people in need could come to anytime and take enough to tide them over.

She obtained a cabinet about five feet high with doors and several shelves. She found a suitable centrally located spot to place it. It has since expanded to several cabinets. Here, in winter weather, they should be placed inside so the canned goods don’t freeze. They are stocked by volunteers with nonperishable foods. It would seem to me to be the perfect answer to meet an immediate need, not necessarily a long-term solution, for those isolated communities in our county. Meals on Wheels is available some places, but in others the meals are offered but aren’t delivered. Eligible people in those areas need to travel to pick them up. This leaves those unable to drive left out completely unless they have a helpful neighbor.

I’m thinking some carpenters could team up to find used kitchen built-ins that could be adapted for this use. We don’t need fancy, just enclosed. Places like Habitat for Humanity gather such items for use in their rehabs. Other salvage places could be a source too. Maybe the local food bank could stock it, with locals adding to the supply each time they shop for groceries. Gifts of items like toilet paper, tissues, diapers (infant and adult), soap, samples of tooth care items and sanitary supplies could be solicited too.

This kind of assistance could be classed under the title — A Stitch in Time. Keeping people healthy is important. Not only is it more pleasant for them, but preventing health problems is a huge money saver. It also occurs to me that setting some suitable land aside for a community garden would increase the balance of people’s diets. Those sufficiently able could work in the garden, planting and weeding in return for being able to pick what they need when they need it. In bad weather, they could grow lettuce and other suitable crops indoors hydroponically or in a greenhouse. Again, produce for work.

Another idea I had is that maybe we could find some semiretired farmer who would buy a few chickens and supply eggs to the food banks. Or, maybe a food desert could raise a few for that purpose with volunteers supplying the feed and other needed supplies. Folks could save their cartons for reuse. The other not as easy source of protein could be rabbits. This requires strong-minded people who can resist adopting them as pets but surely some such folks are out there. Drying and selling the pelts could be a source of income for the food bank and the meat provide a good protein source. Not only that, they reproduce themselves abundantly. Again, find volunteers to make cages with scrap lumber and materials. I think I still have some chicken wire to donate. As the saying goes, ask and you shall receive.

Like I’ve often said, I’m very good at thinking of things for other people to do. I have found though, that if you break down the chores so that the entire workload and responsibility falls on no one person, these types of projects can succeed. They need a lot of publicity and that is where I can help. The biggest chore probably will be coordination and supervision but this area has many experienced people to fulfill this need, and even this can be broken down to make it manageable. Let’s turn these food deserts into lush productive oases. Let no county resident go hungry again. We only need the dedication and the will — and the food, of course.

Lenna Harding lived her first 20 and past 43 years in Pullman. A longtime League of Women Voters member, she served on the Gladish Community and Cultural Center board.

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