Center working to solve food security issues

Community Action Center to test services in two nearby cities



Food bank manager Ashely Vaughan describes the mobile farm stand as her pride and joy on Tuesday afternoon in the Neill Public Library.

Loren Negron, Evergreen editor-in-chief

*This article was updated to include that the Pullman League of Women Voters hosted the event.

A guest speaker from the Community Action Center spoke about food security issues and efforts in Whitman County as part of the Brown Bag Lunch Series on Tuesday at the Neill Public Library.

The Pullman League of Women Voters hosted the event as part of their series.

CAC food specialist Ashley Vaughan said the CAC plans to reapply for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program in November 2020. In 2019 they requested $400,000, but they found out in September that their request was not granted.

She said CAC will do pilot tests in Genesee in Latah County and Endicott in Whitman County using the feedback they received. They are working to develop a mobile fresh food van with the CAC truck. Food items will be placed in the truck.

Vaughn said they want to see how this service will work in those pilot areas and use the information they garner as evidence on their grant application. They plan to get more support by working with local farmers.

CAC now has a second food bank due to their partnership with Northwest Harvest, a statewide hunger relief agency, she said.

“We have come to a point where I’m not running out of food anymore,” Vaughn said. “I used to run out of food, especially during the summertime.”

Vaughn said she recently started a dietary restricted section in the CAC’s food pantry to accommodate those who have special dietary needs. This includes low-sodium and gluten-free food.

Food security is a prevalent issue, Vaughn said, about 20 percent of those who come to the food pantry are involved with the campus in some way.

“There’s a lot of people that come through that have food insecurity issues, especially those who are foreign,” she said.

The CAC’s food bank is open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays and from 4-6 p.m. on Thursdays, she said. Foodbank users are given a number and get called during distribution time where they receive boxes, bags and a cart.

Vaughn said there are no eligibility restrictions for the food bank. Anyone is welcome to come in and get the food they need.

“I want people to take what they think they need for their family. I don’t know their whole story,” she said.

Vaughn said there is a big need for food security in the community. However, resources like food pantries are stigmatized.

“If you need food, that’s what we’re here for,” she said. “When you come to the food pantry for food, you are saving a little bit of money that can go into other things, helping pay your bills to get you up a little bit.”

Vaughn said the demographics of those using the pantry are changing.

“We serve all of Whitman County, but now I’m starting to see a few Latah County [residents] coming in from Moscow, especially since they are down to one food pantry now,” she said.

There are additional food pantries on the University of Idaho campus, Vaughn said.

She said she is working with two WSU food pantries to supply them with food. She also collaborates with the Women*s Center. Vaughn said she will be meeting with two other food pantries in Lighty Student Services Building to help expand CAC’s support in the community.

A WSU fraternity recently contacted CAC seeking partnership for a community meal event on Feb. 26, 2020, Vaughn said. The fraternity will be providing all of the food, and they have a budget for the CAC to use.

Aside from their food bank and pantry, the CAC also organizes cooking classes for the community, she said. They have a six-week curriculum dedicated to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program education. Vaughn also does a one-hour cooking class quarterly.

Kayla Wakulich, graduate assistant for WSU’s Center for Civic Engagement, said the WSU basic needs task force is starting again. They plan to get the Greek system more involved and garner more partnerships to help address people’s basic needs on campus.

The next Brown Bag Lunch Series is on Dec. 17, 2019 from 12-1 p.m. at the Neill Public Library. The City of Pullman’s council election results will be discussed during the event.