You can’t pick up a newspaper or click a mouse without being reminded that our country is experiencing difficult economic times. Record high unemployment rates and a weakening economy have forced hard-working families to stretch their resources to the limit, and unfortunately, proper nutrition often suffers. In Shasta County, hunger is the absence of nutrition in the food we eat, rather than not having enough food to eat.
Alarmingly, 28 percent of Shasta County residents do not have consistent access to enough nutritious food for active, healthy living. About 18,000 of them are children who need it to grow and thrive. Starvation is rare in this country, but a growing number of people go hungry because they are poor. Fortunately, services in our community help families bridge the gap between hunger and health.
Eating fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced diet decreases illness and improves our well-being. Locally grown, healthy food is within reach for all Shasta County residents, thanks to community partners like Healthy Shasta, Shasta Growers Association, Anderson-Cottonwood Christian Association and Happy Valley Farm Trail Association. To learn more about growing your own garden, participating in a community garden or shopping at farmers markets, go to www.healthyshasta.org.
Through grants and generous donations, many non-profit organizations provide emergency food. Food pantries can provide several days’ worth of food for people with an immediate need. Shasta County’s food pantries share resources through the Shasta Food Group, a coalition of local food banks, food assistance providers and community members dedicated to ensuring that all residents have access to food every day. To donate, volunteer or find out more about the Shasta Food Group, call 229-8481.
Food Stamps supplement a low- or no-income family’s food budget so they can use more of their money for other essential expenses. This program also breathes life into our local economy; according to the USDA, every food stamp dollar spent results in $1.84 of economic activity, and food stamps bring more than $2 million to Shasta County grocers every month. Only about half of eligible families in Shasta County are enrolled. To find out if your family qualifies, call 225-5767 or visit the Shasta County Social Services website.
WIC and Breastfeeding
Designed to improve nutrition for pregnant women, new mothers and young children, the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program provides nutrition education and food vouchers to pregnant women and low- to medium-income families with children younger than 5. The Breastfeeding Support Center in downtown Redding supports breastfeeding mothers and their infants, because breast milk contains nutrition critical for a baby’s development. For information on these programs, please visit Public Health’s website.
We’re continuing to develop ways to improve access to healthy food, and we’d like to hear how you manage good nutrition. How do you stretch your food budget? Does your family struggle with having enough food? Have you had any experience (good or bad) accessing food resources in our community? How can we help ensure that everyone in Shasta County has enough nutritious food to eat?
Donnell Ewert, MPH, is director of Shasta County Public Health. While at Wheaton College, he participated in the Human Needs and Global Resources program, which included a seven-month internship in Honduras – an experience that sparked his interest in public health. He earned his master’s degree from UCLA after evaluating a program that used goats to increase the nutritional intake of malnourished children. He worked briefly as a health educator with migrant farm workers in Virginia before becoming an epidemiologist for the health departments in Los Angeles and the state of Indiana. Donnell came to Shasta County Public Health as an epidemiologist in 1999, after doing humanitarian health work in Kazakhstan. He has been the department director since 2007. He and his wife, Mary, have two teenage daughters.