Hunger is a prevalent issue in Whatcom County, with an estimated 1 in 6 residents experiencing hunger. The Foothills region of East Whatcom County is particularly affected, due to high rates of poverty and geographic isolation. Last fall, following a food summit that addressed the challenges residents face in securing healthy food the idea for the photovoice project emerged. The project, organized by Food Lifeline, the Whatcom County Health Department, and the Foothills Food Bank, was an opportunity for individuals to share their experiences with hunger and food insecurity by taking photographs in their community.
Four Whatcom County residents were provided digital cameras and over the course of four months captured images that represented community issues and personal experiences with hunger. Each individual then chose which photos they felt best represented both the challenges and opportunities they face related to food. The photographers were asked to provide captions to each photo describing what the photos meant to them and how they related to hunger in their community.
This October, the photos were displayed in Whatcom County for the public to view. The first exhibition was held at the East Whatcom Regional Resource Center on Saturday, October 10th, which was also the monthly Mobile Food Pantry distribution day. Community members were able to view the photos, pick up their monthly food supplies, and chat with state Representative Luanne Van Werven, who stopped by to see the Photovoice exhibit and the Mobile Food Pantry. The second exhibition was held at the Bellingham Food Bank on Tuesday, October 13th. The photographs will be on display around the community in the coming months.
A camera is a powerful tool for individuals that often feel that their voice goes unheard. The photographs used in the Photovoice project offer a much needed window into what hunger and food insecurity looks like in Whatcom County. One of the aims of this project is to provide both the general public and policy makers with an intimate perspective on hunger and how a community can come together to address it. The photos are living testimony to the need for legislation and funding to put an end to hunger, food insecurity, and poverty. The hope is that the photos will help show policy makers and funders how they can make positive changes to increase access to fresh, health food throughout Western Washington.
Read more about the Photovoice project and see some photographs from the exhibit on our Facebook page!