Coming together as a community, we can do anything! Including overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic.
When I started the Eloise’s Cooking Pot Food Bank in Tacoma back in 2009, it was just a small food pantry to ensure my neighbors in my small Eastside Tacoma neighborhood had enough to eat. But as more community members became involved and donated time, food, and money, our reach grew and more and more individuals, families, children could access the healthy food they needed. Now it is the largest independently owned and operated food bank in Pierce County with the largest delivery program. In 2020 alone, we helped 317,125 people with 23,784,375 pounds of food which was 35,676,562 meals.
I didn’t do it alone. It took the neighborhood coming together and caring about each other. I don’t think the coronavirus pandemic is really all that different than the pandemic of hunger or any other community health issue.
Whenever there is a large community problem, whether it is hunger, homelessness, or a health pandemic, it takes more than a small handful of people to make the change to improve things, to get us through. Yet, it starts with each individual deciding to be the change, to be the solution. And then, the positive results grow exponentially from there.
In the case of the virus, it is going to take each one of us to do our part to stay healthy through proven actions: eat healthy, nutritious food, social distance when possible, wear a mask, and get the vaccine (if you can).
Currently, Pierce County has the second highest COVID rate in the state only behind King County, with 73,057 positive cases and 724 deaths (9/4/21 – http://covidinmycity.com/us/Washington/Pierce.php). Tacoma, naturally with the highest population density in the county, is at 16,418 cases 234 deaths. Yet only 54.18% of Pierce County residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine and only 48.27% have been fully vaccinated while King County residents show at 74.65% with one dose and 69.02% fully vaccinated (9/6/21).
Within the BIPOC community, it’s even more critical for us to get the vaccine as CDC COVID-19 data has shown that this demographic is more disproportionately affected, hit harder by the virus, and have poorer outcomes when infected. This is due to structural systems that support racism, create wider income gaps, and cause inequities in health coverage and care, nutritious food, and even education. In Pierce County, African Americans represent only 7.3% of the population yet are at 8.8% of the cases and 7.5% of the COVID deaths. For Hispanics, at 11.4% of the population, they stand at 17.8% of cases and 7.5% of the deaths. Overall, every BIPOC population has cases and deaths at or above their population percentage in the county. Yet, we are also the least likely to get true and correct information regarding the vaccine and have reservations (based on American history and vaccinations) as it relates to health and government agencies.
Critical services are now being affected again by the rise in cases around Tacoma/Pierce County. Hospitals and other medical services are filling up or at risk of overflowing with many medical tests and surgeries being cancelled or postponed – many of which could save a life. Plus, safety net programs like our food bank become more resource challenged and must change levels of service just when people need these services the most.
I believe the vaccine is vital to us ending the pandemic and getting life to return to a more normal state. So much so, that Making A Difference Foundation/Eloise’s Cooking Pot Food Bank has already hosted three vaccination clinics in partnership with the Tacoma/Pierce County Health Department. We can, and must do better, as good neighbors, as a community that cares! We are in this together and can change it together! Let’s get vaccinated and save some lives!
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” – Coretta Scott King
Ahndrea Blue is president and CEO of the Making A Difference Foundation. Contact her at (253) 212-2778 and firstname.lastname@example.org.