Joe Burris

United Way of King County Launches First Cohort of COVID-19 HungerCorps to Help With Hunger Relief Efforts

SEATTLE—The first cohort of United Way of King County’s new HungerCorps will begin assisting in hunger relief efforts on Tuesday, May 26, as part of the organization’s overall operations to help families that have been economically impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.  

These first 30 HungerCorps members, out of a total of 100 that United way has hired for the summer, will join current AmeriCorps members who are already working at area schools, community college pantries and other sites. The second cohort will start on June 17. 

HungerCorps members will work at food banks and meal sites, where they will prepare and serve meals, pack food boxes and engage with community members to provide them with information about available resources. They will also deliver meals to families at apartment complexes and will serve grab-and-go packaged meals at parks and community centers.  

“We talk a lot about heroes in this community and people on the frontline, and here are these people who are stepping up at a time of unprecedented need, and they’re going to be part of the solution all summer long,” said Lauren McGowan, senior director for ending homelessness and poverty at United Way. 

Many of the people who will receive food assistance are refugees, people of color and undocumented immigrant families. The COVID crisis is hitting these communities even harder because of the history of institutional racism, discrimination and lack of access to public benefits, such as stimulus checks or unemployment benefits. 

“We are proud to have such a tireless and dedicated group of young people who are willing to serve in this time of urgent need,” McGowan said. “The HungerCorps will have an immediate and direct impact on our most vulnerable populations.” 

All HungerCorps members will be provided masks and will follow public health guidelines about social distancing and other measures to protect themselves and prevent the spread of the virus. 

Low-income families depend on schools to provide free or low-cost meals for their children, but with school closures, those families have had to find other ways to keep food on the table.  

Food banks traditionally have relied on volunteers for their operations, but many of those volunteers are older adults who are especially vulnerable to the virus. The HungerCorps members will help relieve that shortage of personnel at those locations.