After 6 public hearings, 14 budget meetings and testimony from over 200 people on their budget priorities, the King County Council unanimously approved its first two year budget on November 17. While there were still some painful cuts in the $9 billion budget, many vital programs were preserved. This is good news for people who use food banks and rely on key services provided by the county.
The budget allocated $10.7 million for community and human services, including $150,000 in funding that will be awarded through a competitive grant process to support services like food banks and meal programs. Non-profits, community organizations, direct service providers and others will have the opportunity to seek funding through these grants.
One area of potential concern is the proposed environmental health fee increase for vendors at farmers markets throughout King County. This fee pays for inspections of local farmers markets and vendors to ensure the safe handling of food to prevent food borne illness. Food safety and that of the public is critically important, but the increased fee may result in the loss of vendors and therefore fresh, nutritious, local produce. This is produce that many food bank clients purchase with SNAP and Farmers Market Nutrition Vouchers, or use programs like Fresh Bucks to double their dollars at these markets. Food Lifeline will be following this discussion as it moves forward. The fee increase will be ultimately be decided by the county Board of Health at their January 15, 2015 meeting.
In addition, the Council approved a rate increase levied by the King Conservation District (KCD) to support many programs, including the local food system. The KCD is currently funded at $21,000 per year, and this increase will bump that up to $1.096 million in funding in 2015 to help address food insecurity in the county and improve access to healthy food. For additional information about the budget visit the King County Council Budget homepage.