The Hunger Problem is Real in this COVID-19 Crisis

By United Way of King County, on April 17, 2020 | In News, Racial Equity

We are hearing from so many families who need food assistance for the first time. They’re unclear about how to access food banks and aren’t sure even where to look. In addition – with children out of school, families who have relied on free and reduced breakfast and lunches are having to get creative. 

Having to choose between keeping your family housed and safe—and food in bellies—is a choice that no one should have to make.

Thanks to many generous donors to the Community Relief Fund: COVID-19, the team is helping people navigate all of these issues. Some of the ‘wins’ this week to fight hunger during this crisis, include:

  • Grocery voucher program. Thanks to generous donors like NHL Seattle ($800K!) and individuals, we’re able to expand the City of Seattle’s grocery voucher program. Roughly 1,250 families will receive two Safeway vouchers of $400 each. These can be used to purchase food, diapers and other necessary items.

    This is mostly still available in Seattle only – we’re aggressively working to raise more money to expand this program beyond Seattle to the rest of the county. 
  • Food delivery to low-income housing communities. Beginning next week, we’re working with FareStart, Seattle Housing Authority and YMCA to deliver healthy meals to ten housing communities. 1,300 households and 3,700 youth will be served.
  • Extra support at food banks and community meal sites. We have 50 AmeriCorps members on the frontlines, helping get food to people who need it. The team is energetic – and multilingual. Both important in this time of need.  

The number of people we can help is only limited by the donations available in our Community Relief Fund.

In addition to the direct service above, we’re advocating for change to Washington State’s basic food program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP (formerly called Food Stamps). It puts the food purchasing power in the hands of those who need it – and is one of the most effective anti-hunger tools we have. Legislative efforts include:

  • Advocating for increased benefits. We’re working to boost benefit levels by 15% and expand eligibility so more college students can receive benefits.
  • Expanded access to federal nutrition programs in schools. We worked with the Washington legislature and partners across the state to pass the Hunger-Free Schools Act. As a result, free breakfast and lunch will be provided to about 7,200 students. 
  • More fruits and veggies at Safeway and farmers markets. Recent legislation was passed that allows shoppers to spend at least $10 on produce—and get a coupon for fruits and veggies on their next trip.

None of this would be possible without the support of all the companies and people who have donated.

Racial Equity Matters

In ‘normal’ times, hunger is a reality for far too many people: In King County, 15% of kids are regularly at risk of going hungry. This number is even higher for youth of color.  

Because of historical inequities, people of color are over-represented in poverty and homelessness. The income and wealth gaps in the Seattle-King County area are vast – and a crisis like this will widen them even further.  

We’re working with partners who have deep roots with hard-hit communities and in south King County where the need is especially high. Northwest Harvest and Backpack Brigade are just two partners that help get food where it is needed most. 

Hunger Hurts.  Want to help more families get the food they need?


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