SNAP’s 150 or so employees are located in numerous locations throughout Spokane County because we want to make it possible for our clients to conveniently reach us. “Neighborhood” is part of our name for a reason. Because our staff work in different locations, we think it’s important to provide regular opportunities for everyone to get together in a social setting. This helps build a sense of community within the organization, and ultimately helps us coordinate the broad array of services we offer from our varied locations.

One way we meet is at a quarterly event we call Lunch, Laugh and Learn or LLL. Just like a lot of families, sharing food is a SNAP tradition that brings us together. The “laugh” part of the event isn’t hard to come by; we wouldn’t be social service providers if we weren’t people persons, and humor comes easily to us. We also appreciate a chance to lighten the mood because our work is serious business for this community. The “learn” part of the event is usually a presentation aimed at improving our services. Each LLL is hosted by one of the SNAP service areas and the food is donated and prepared by our staff.

On February 21, our Fort Wright location hosted the LLL with a “Javanese Potluck” and guest speaker Mr. Andrian Dominguez from Spokane Regional Health District.

I’d never heard of “Javanese” so I interviewed a dozen or so of the attendees about it. Turns out that one of SNAP’s veteran employees, Marianne DeMarco, had a classmate in college at San Jose State who invited friends over one night for a Javanese Potluck. Marianne liked it and made it into a traditional meal with her friends, family and coworkers. For years she thought her college friend made up the idea but later Marianne happened to read the book “Hawaii” by James Michener and discovered that the meal is described in that book. Mystery solved. If you missed the potluck and you’d like the recipe, I guess you’ll have to read the book or ask a veteran SNAP staff member, particularly one who has worked with Marianne.

After lunch, our guest Adrian Dominguez presented research he performed regarding health inequities in Spokane County. Adrian, an epidemiologist, identified four factors that affect human health and lifespan in our county:  education, household income, race or ethnicity, and place of residence. Perhaps the following quotes from the report will stimulate you to check out this intriguing and unsettling research:

What would you do if you found out that where you live predicts your life expectancy, that your health is worse if you are poorer, and that your child is more likely to die in infancy if you have less education?

Many people tend to attribute our differences in health to variations in individual behaviors, genes or nature and are ultimately inevitable: “That’s just the way things are.” But that’s not the way things have to be.

Health equity refers to differences in a population’s health that can be traced to unequal economic and social conditions that are systemic and avoidable – and thus inherently unjust and unfair.

Babies born to mothers who do not finish high school are 2.5 times more likely to die before their first birthday as babies born to mothers with a bachelor’s or advanced degree in Spokane County and Washington state.

Among children less than 18 years of age, approximately one-third live in poverty in Spokane County and Washington state. The proportion increases significantly to approximately 50 percent in Spokane County and to 41 percent in Washington state if the child’s parent is a single female.

Among males in Spokane County, the gap in life expectancy is approximately 17 years between the neighborhood with the highest life expectancy, Southgate, and the neighborhood with the lowest life expectancy, Riverside.