The impact of last September's Eagle Creek wildfire was felt on both sides of the Columbia Gorge: some 50,000 acres were burned, more than 150 hikers were stranded by the flames, businesses were forced to evacuate, landslides made travel unsafe and the ensuing air quality reminded many of the eruptions of Mount St. Helens in 1980.
Another impact you might not have heard about is elevated food insecurity in the Gorge.
Hood River News tells the story:
The need for food assistance has risen in Cascade Locks as the Eagle Creek fire recovery continues. Gorge Grown Food Network was able to offer support by “prescribing” Veggie Rx at the Cascade Locks FISH Food Bank during its January distribution.
Veggie Rx is a fruit and vegetable prescription program designed to address food insecurity and increase accessibility to fresh produce. Packets of vouchers are normally prescribed through social service or healthcare providers, but a grant from Meyer Memorial Trust allowed over $7,000 in vouchers to be distributed to 104 low-income families, supporting healthy choices for more than 250 people. The majority of the vouchers went to seniors, and recipients are reporting sharing food with their neighbors in need.
“Everyone was so thrilled to receive vouchers for fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Cascade Locks Food Bank Site Manager Martha LaMont. “I am hearing comments like, ‘Fresh produce is not something I can usually afford and I am so glad to be able to have a healthy choice of food — I am going to try a new recipe tonight using fresh ingredients.’”