Bringing Food Security to the Table
We know that hunger is a symptom of bigger issues—like poverty and systemic racism. We also know that when families are financially struggling, food is often one of their biggest concerns.
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Hunger is not equal across communities—32% of Black and 26% of Latino adults experience food insecurity compared to just 7% of white adults.
Communities of color face disproportionate levels of poverty and food insecurity because of historic and systemic racism. The pandemic only made it worse.
As federally-funded programs for economic recovery end, experts say it’ll take households several years to recover, and that these families need more support to gain access to fresh and healthy food.
At United Way, we believe that, as a community, we need to reimagine the food system to better serve all our neighbors, including low-income and households of color.
Feeding Our Community
The emergency food system is doing its best to meet the sharp increase in demand. But being overburdened, organizations’ ability to serve our historically underserved neighbors is limited.
Enabling dignified and equitable access to culturally specific, nutritious food is one of our priorities at United Way. Through strong community partnerships with local farmers, food banks, grocery stores and DoorDash, we’re working to fundamentally change the way the emergency food system operates.
Home Grocery Delivery Program
United Way of King County launched its Home Grocery Delivery Program during the pandemic in 2020, when in-person food assistance was largely unavailable. We collaborated with communities to inform the program design.
Its key features? Easy access, low-barrier sign-up, and it’s free.
Today, United Way’s Home Grocery Delivery Program has completed over 400,000 such deliveries and continues to serve 6,700+ King County families each week.
The program uses an easy to apply for, centralized home delivery model, supplementing the current emergency food system and meeting the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors by bringing the food directly to their door in a reliable and safe way.
How It Works
1. A box of essential groceries or bag of culturally appropriate food is prepared.
2. A DoorDash driver picks up the food.
3. The DoorDash driver delivers it to a King County household in need.
To address racial inequities and the disproportionate impact on communities of color, we’re targeting this support throughout the county.
Currently, 79% of food box delivery recipients identify as Black, Indigenous or as a person of color (BIPOC). We’re also partnering with communities to provide more culturally specific food, like produce boxes designed in collaboration with Vietnamese Mutual Aid.
Addressing Hunger in BIPOC Communities
We know people and organizations closest to the problems know best how to solve them. United Way is listening to and working with the communities most impacted by hunger, and together we’re developing solutions built on strong stakeholder input and trust.
In partnership with Public Health–Seattle & King County, United Way awarded $4.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to 35 partner organizations, including to meal programs, food banks, community-based organizations and coalitions to support the purchase and distribution of culturally specific food—the first such investment of its kind.
Collectively, these partner organizations serve broad populations, e.g., LGBTQIA2S+ Pacific Islanders, East African seniors, immigrants and refugees.
65% of these organizations serve BIPOC populations in South King County.
100% of these partners source food from local ethnic vendors.
Ending Childhood Hunger
Childhood hunger in the United States is a result of poverty—not food shortage. While it will require transforming long standing systems to change that, hunger is an immediate crisis and we must act now.
A recent survey shows 79% of people spent critical Child Tax Credit dollars on food.
Ensuring kids have access to healthy food is close to our hearts. We developed and helped pass state legislation to expand access to universal, free school meals to 500,000 students in over 1,100 schools across Washington state. We also operate dozens of Free Summer Meals locations countywide, serving nutritious breakfast and lunch to help parents offset the increased food costs when school is out.
Improving student access to federally reimbursable school meals is one of United Way of King County’s key strategies to narrowing the persistent racial disparities in child nutrition and child food security in our state. As the lead No Kid Hungry Washington partner, we advocate for legislation, administrative policies, and approaches that center the needs of students of color, and bring in diverse student and community voices.
Breakfast after the Bell
At United Way, we know just how critical breakfast can be for kids to learn and thrive. We support school districts across Washington to implement breakfast service into the school day to maximize participation and reduce stigma—helping over 220,000 students have access to healthy meals every day.
Free Summer and Afterschool Meals
Our innovative partnerships and approaches with community-based organizations and school districts enable us to support their summer and after-school meal services to connect kids with three meals per day—during the school year and beyond.
kids reached per day by expanding our Free Summer Meals program during the pandemic.
kids receive healthy afterschool meals through our partnerships with FareStart, the YMCA of Greater Seattle, King County Housing Authority and the City of Seattle.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
As part of our work leveraging federal dollars to promote food security for children, we work to connect families to SNAP by raising awareness about eligibility and providing guidance, tools and support for families navigating the complex application process.
What is clear, every day, is that the need for hunger relief in Seattle and King County is increasing. Our goal is to listen to our community’s priorities and support long-term systems change.
The more money we raise to provide hunger relief, the more kids, families and people we can help. You can support by donating today.