Joe Burris

United Way of King County Launches New Campaign to Address Growing Food Insecurity Due to Pandemic

Changes in Federal and State Law Expand Eligibility for Basic Food Benefits, But Too Many Are Unaware of Eligibility

SEATTLE – In an effort to address growing food insecurity as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, United Way of King County has launched a campaign to ensure that everyone who is eligible for Basic Food, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), applies for this hunger– and poverty–fighting benefit.

Recent changes in federal policies and state regulations have expanded eligibility and benefit levels for thousands of households across the state, including community and technical college students. A family of four is eligible to receive more than $600 to purchase food at grocery stores, online and at many farmers markets. The amount a family can receive depends on a variety of factors, including income, housing costs and household size.

Families with mixed immigration status can register their eligible children to receive Basic Food. Additionally, the federal government stopped applying the “public charge” rule, so receiving Basic Food benefits will not affect families with pending visa applications.

Nelly Evans, food security program coordinator at United Way of King County, said many people, especially college students, do not know they are eligible for this program or how to get help to apply. The funds families and students receive from Basic Food can expand their household budget to pay for school, rent or other needed items.

“Basic Food is one of the best tools to combat poverty and hunger. It’s an incredibly valuable benefit that can boost economic activity in the community,” Evans said. “The program empowers families to choose where and how they purchase food, and what kind of food is best for their them.” 

Once enrolled in Basic Food, school-aged children are automatically enrolled in free school meals, as well as Pandemic-EBT, and some infants and toddlers may also qualify for the Women, Infants and Children program, which provides additional food benefits.

Because of the new eligibility guidelines, more than 50,000 community college and technical school students across the state are also eligible for this program. Those students also qualify for the Basic Food and Employment Training program, an education and work training program that can help with childcare subsidies, books, tuition assistance and additional scholarships.

For guidance and resources about Basic Food, please visit United Way’s dedicated webpage.