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Aiming to end regional hunger

Original piece by Griffin Hewitt, Argus Observer | Sep 13, 2022

ONTARIO — The public health concern of food insecurity and food scarcity is one which touches many different lives in many different places.

The Western Treasure Valley Food Systems Partnership is seeking to find ways of making sure people’s plates are not left empty by reimagining food systems in the Western Treasure Valley.

The Ontario Community FEAST, the word “feast” being an acronym that stands for “Food Education Agriculture Solutions Together” is a community conversation that took place on Sept. 9 at River Bend Place in Ontario in the Rev. Raymond Wilson Community Room.

This is the first event of its kind for this region, bringing together “leaders from 14 private and public organizations” in a concerted effort to “end hunger in Southeast Oregon and Southwest Idaho” states a follow-up news release provided by Rachael Van Klompenberg, Network Communications Specialist with Oregon Food Bank.

The event, which started out with dinner, was an open conversation with community members about what barriers they see to providing sufficient food supplies to people in the Western Treasure Valley.

Emceeing the event was Lindsay Grosvenor, strategic partnerships program manager with Oregon Food Bank - Southeast Oregon Services. She invited attendees to then list hurdles to achieving food security locally.

Ideas generated

Each table in the community room was full of participants, who worked in groups, to compile a list of challenges and barriers the community faces in addressing the issue of widespread food insecurity.

Many of the challenges highlighted during the interactive discussion were directly related to food cost and transportation, with cost being a prohibitive factor in obtaining nutritious food that residents can prepare themselves as opposed to what is prepackaged, convenient and widely available.

Another idea that was brought to the forefront of the discussion was how geographical areas of lower income, such as Malheur County, are usually the site of a large amount of fast food chains.

Panelists provide insights

Four panelists were invited to share their thoughts on what factors are impacting the food supply in Ontario. These panelists were: Tim Peters, Blu Fortner, Renae Corn and Lindsay Grosvenor.

Peters said he felt much of the issue stemmed from “supply chain issues” and other “peripheral” problems.

Fortner said the problem was “increasing prices” and a change is needed in “what the priority is.”

Corn said one of the problems she sees is a “language barrier” the prevents people from finding “what they’re looking for.” Grosvenor said that there is a “lack of resources in general” and said people know where to go to get food, “but they’re still hungry.” The panelists were then asked what they found to be hopeful in the local food systems infrastructure. Peters said he felt the SNAP program that provides recipients with fresh produce is a “great opportunity.” Fortner drew attention to the “generosity within the community” and wanted to “educate” the community as to “where healthy food comes from.” Corn said she wanted to assure the community that their food is “safe” and to “buy local.” Grosvenor said she was hopeful that there are “lots of opportunities that exist already.”

Looking to the future

The project is one which was made possible through funding from a two-year USDA Regional Food Systems Planning Grant as well as matching funds from several local organizations.

Future plans include having more local workshops and planning sessions like the community feast in order to continue to evaluate strengths and weaknesses of the efforts being taken.

The input gathered from this community event will be used to direct food insecurity remediation efforts by these community partners according to Grosvenor, as outlined in the news release.

The “community-led conversations” taking place are aimed to contribute to future major projects that have the purpose of creating “more just and resilient local food systems.”

For more information, contact Grosvenor at

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