From the CEO: Join Our Campaign To End Hunger

By Gordon McHenry, Jr., on March 23, 2023 | In Breaking the Cycle of Poverty, News, Racial Equity

Spring is here, which means many of us will soon be tilling, planting, weeding and watering with hopes of someday harvesting the fruits (and vegetables) of our labor. For me, spring is a time of rebirth and renewal, and gardening is an opportunity to reconnect with Mother Earth. My wife and I take joy in annually growing tomatoes, carrots, mint, basil and cilantro in our backyard garden, and during good harvests we supplement our meals with our harvests.

Imagine if everyone had it that way—if healthy, nutritious food was so plentiful, so accessible, that any food we gathered from the ground was surplus. Imagine if there was no such thing as food deserts, no food banks, no reason to wonder why in a nation so plentiful, nearly 40 percent of all food goes to waste, according to Feeding America.

At United Way of King County, we understand that not everyone in our county has access to food, neither can everyone grow their own. What’s more, a 2019 King County government study on food access found that for communities of color, access to healthy food is hampered by access to neighborhood supermarkets as well as disparities in variety, quality, quantity and the ability to afford food. Many live in food deserts, defined by the USDA as tract in which at least 100 households are located more than one-half mile from the nearest supermarket and have no vehicle access.

Tomatoes from the CEO’s garden

That is why at this time of rebirth and renewal, United Way is staging a renewed effort to help eradicate hunger locally. We are launching our new Hunger Campaign, from March 27 to April 7. We know that there is more than enough healthy, nutritious and culturally specific food to go around. We need your help to get it to those who need it most.

The Hunger Campaign continues our steadfast efforts to help make more food—particularly culturally specific food—available to all in King County, where according to Feeding America, nine percent of people are experiencing food insecurity.

Our Home Grocery Delivery program reaches more than 6,000 households with regular grocery deliveries. Home Grocery distributed more than 5.5 million pounds of food this year alone – the equivalent of 19 blue whales.

We distributed more than $5 million through our Community Food Fund this year in partnership with King County Public Health. Our partner agencies provided services to more than 10,000 households in our community. We’ve supported school districts across the state in implementing Breakfast After the Bell—helping over 200,000 students have access to healthy meals as schools return to in-person learning. We’ve provided weekday deliveries of child meals to 12 affordable housing sites, reaching 1,000 kids every day.

All of this work cost money to make happen, and too many people in our communities are dependent upon organizations like United Way and our partners for food to nourish themselves and their families.

Gordon McHenry, Jr., United Way of King County president and CEO

That is our commitment to tackling a problem that need not exist. All of this work cost money to make happen, and too many people in our communities are dependent upon organizations like United Way and our partners for food to nourish themselves and their families. The issue is exacerbated by the fact that COVID-19 federal assistance programs that assisted needy families with additional SNAP benefits have ended and inflation means that grocery dollars continue to be stretched thin.

Therefore, we’ve advocated for public policy that ensures more students have access to free meals during school hours. We successfully petitioned state lawmakers to pass a bill mandating school districts to expand the USDA Community Eligibility Provision program. The expansion makes 92,000 additional Washington students from low-income areas eligible to receive free meals every school day.

That’s why United Way is excited to take on this Hunger Campaign and we’re calling on you to join us in this effort. At this time of rebirth and renewal, commit to helping us bridge the gap between hunger and harvest, so that we adequately address a problem whose solution is well within our grasp.

To give to our Hunger Campaign, click here.


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