Each year Food Lifeline works with volunteers, partners, and legislative champions to advance important hunger relief priorities during Washington’s state legislative session. Issues range from appropriations for food assistance and other basic needs programs, to school meals and policies that can help people access job training.
Many times existing programs just need adjustments or updates to keep up with changing dynamics. In some cases, funding levels are not sufficient to maximize what a program is able to do. Other times ideas surface that introduce new approaches to problems that haven’t been solved before. Regardless, Food Lifeline is there to help improve how the state deals with the food insecurity that affects 1 in 5 people who call Washington home.
Our advocacy is broadening to address root causes of hunger like poverty, affordable housing, and racial and social justice. For this reason, the following report highlights significant policy victories that not only put food on the table, but help people build a stable foundation for themselves and their family.
The first bill passed in 2018 was Breakfast After the Bell (HB 1508). This bill ensures that all kids in high-needs schools start their day without hunger. The program allows breakfast or healthy snacks at the start of the day and gives schools one-time start-up grants to help with implementation. A second provision in the bill provides funding for the WSDA’s Regional Markets program which includes the Farm to School initiative. This program provides consultation to small farmers looking to expand into “direct markets” such as schools or farmers markets. Our thanks to Rep. Monica Stonier for her leadership in passing this bill.
The state’s capital budget included $1.25 million for Food Lifeline’s Hunger Solution Center to help with the property and facility purchase. A separate item in the capital budget was $3.25 million for the Healthy Kids/Healthy Schools initiative to help schools remodel kitchens to enhance nutrition and improve student access to healthier foods. This, in conjunction with the Farm to School initiative, can help open the door to more local fresh fruits and vegetables making their way into the school lunch room.
A bill to further develop the state’s Food Policy Forum did not pass, however the supplemental budget did provide funding to continue convening the forum over the next two fiscal years. The forum engages stakeholders in agriculture, state agencies, and nonprofits to coordinate and advance food policy, programs, and related issues in Washington. Among other things, the forum will promote “strengthening hunger safety net programs to ensure they are reaching low income people in need.” Special thanks to Rep. Mia Gregerson for her work on HB 1562.
The Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights was passed to prohibit schools and districts from “taking action directed at a student under the age of 15 to collect unpaid school meal fees, and from stigmatizing a student who cannot pay for a school meal.” Most importantly, the bill requires the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to improve systems to identify homeless students, students in foster care, runaway students, and migrant students to ensure that each child has proper access to free school meals. This includes directly certifying students for free school meals if the students qualify because of enrollment in assistance programs. Special thanks to Rep. Strom Peterson for his leadership on HB 2610.
Employment is an important factor in anyone’s life, but it is vital to individuals struggling with poverty. Most people want to work and are able, but have significant barriers in doing so. The legislature passed The Fair Chance Act, a.k.a. “Ban the Box,” which prevents employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal background on an application until after the employer initially determines that the applicant is otherwise qualified for the position. Our thanks to Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self for her work on passing HB 1298.
The Source of Income Discrimination bill bans discrimination based on a renter’s source of income of an otherwise eligible prospective or current tenant. Special thanks to Rep. Marcus Riccelli for passing HB 2578.
The WorkFirst Poverty Reduction Oversight Task Force was created to oversee the operation of the WorkFirst and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs; which includes collaborating with the Intergenerational Advisory Committee (Committee) to develop and monitor strategies to prevent and address adverse childhood experiences and reduce intergenerational poverty. Thanks to Rep. David Sawyer for passing HB 1482.
Significantly, funding to expand access to homeless housing and assistance was secured by making permanent and also increasing, what has been a temporary surcharge collected by each county auditor when a document is recorded. The change is estimated to add $26 million each year for state and local homeless housing programs. Many thanks to Rep. Nicole Macri for her leadership on HB 1570.
A package of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) bills passed: asset limits were updated by passage of HB 1831, by Rep. Eric Pettigrew, appropriation: $438,000; TANF cash grants for families were restored from the 15% cut they suffered in 2011, appropriation: $8,980,000; and changes to WorkFirst program saw underspent funding ($7,240,000) pulled back while reinvesting in interpreters, transportation, and other support adding $1,220,000. Total appropriation: $10,638,000.
Food Lifeline would like to recognize the following integral partners that helped make this body of work possible: Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition, Northwest Harvest, Washington Anti-Poverty Advocates Group, Faith Action Network, and United Way.
Visit Food Lifeline’s advocacy page to find out how you can get involved in the latest efforts to end hunger in western Washington!