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On the Front Lines of Food Insecurity

Associate Professor of Health Sciences Elizabeth Abbey '03 is a registered dietitian and teaches Whitworth’s Nutrition course each semester. She is a director on the Spokane Food Policy Council, working to foster a resilient local food system.

"I grew up serving meals at a homeless shelter and collecting canned goods for the local food pantry. The people I served were food insecure, so the natural solution seemed to be to give them food, no matter how poor its quality.

It wasn't until I served as an AmeriCorps member and had frequent, direct contact with individuals struggling with food insecurity that I became aware of the great complexities that contributed to this problem. People who are food insecure need food, yes, but that is the product of larger, systemic factors.

Coming to Whitworth, I wanted to provide my students in Nutrition with these same insights. I could talk about food insecurity in the classroom, but I knew that the best teacher is experience coupled with honest reflection. I decided to make Nutrition a service-learning course to introduce students to local organizations fighting food insecurity. I ask students to grapple with their preconceived ideas of the population served, and to consider how their faith and worldview influence their ideas. I can’t replicate that in a classroom.

No nonprofit organization can address every level of the food insecurity puzzle, but students usually come away with a clearer understanding of helpful, and maybe not-so-helpful, ways to address food insecurity. Most importantly, they have the opportunity to see that food insecure individuals are not 'the problem,' but are unique individuals in difficult circumstances who are still valued by God."

On the Front Lines of Food Insecurity Numbers