Front Burner Blog

Private and Public Food Programs Working Together

In a three part blog series, we examine Western Washington’s hunger safety net, which is made up of food banks and meal programs throughout the state as well as government funded programs like SNAP, school meals, WIC, and programs for seniors. With Food Lifeline’s Missing Meals report, we are able to get a comprehensive look at how the safety net meets the needs of hungry Washingtonians, while also taking into account how much work is still left to do.

As in prior years the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) is the greatest single source of meals. It made up 66%, or almost 370 million meals in the safety net. The next highest was food banks and meal programs at 16% or close to 78 million meals. The remaining 101 million meals were provided through other government programs. The largest single government program after SNAP is the free and reduced price school meal program which provided almost 72 million meals. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provided an additional 25 million meals for children under five, and pregnant and nursing women. The remaining four million meals came from a combination of smaller programs including those serving seniors like Meals on Wheels and some other children’s programs like summer meals.

Government programs, both federally and locally funded make up a vast majority of the hunger safety net, but food banks and meal programs play a critical role for many families. The barriers to accessing government programs, including very low income thresholds and the amount of paperwork and documentation required can be daunting. For the estimated 36% of food insecure people who make too much to qualify for government programs, but not enough to make ends meet the local food bank or community meal can mean the difference between having dinner on the table or not. 
 

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