The number of our neighbors experiencing food insecurity is growing at an alarming rate this holiday season. Last year, Food Lifeline provided food that served more than a million neighbors across Western Washington. This year, that number has grown to a shocking 1.58 million. That’s an increase of more than 50%.
Even though the pandemic has passed, inflation remains stubbornly high, and rents have increased by nearly 10% in the Puget Sound region. This means even more families are making tough choices when it comes to providing nutritious foods for their families. A car repair, a medical bill, or any other unseen expense can mean less food at the table for far too many people in our communities.
And it’s hardest, for our most vulnerable neighbors.
This year 100,000 infants and toddlers are living in homes that are experiencing food insecurity. It’s hard to imagine, but it’s true. The rising cost of groceries, childcare, and healthcare are leaving the youngest among us without the nutritious food they need to survive.
“The cost of baby formula is astronomical”, says young a mother in the Rainier Valley neighborhood of Seattle. “During the pandemic it was really hard to find. Now it’s just hard to afford.”
Seniors are also relying more on food banks and meal programs. This year, more than 300,00 seniors will regularly visit food banks. Even in an otherwise affluent area like Bellevue, seniors line up at the Renewal Food Bank to receive fresh produce, proteins, and other items otherwise unaffordable on their fixed incomes.
“I’m able to get everything here that I need. They make sure I always have enough food,” says 76-year-old Chinh. This grandmother of five visits the food bank every week. Thanks to Food Lifeline’s emphasis on sourcing and providing culturally relevant foods, Chinh can prepare foods that she’s familiar with and enjoys. “I get ingredients here for cooking Vietnamese food. It’s very good.”
With a growing population of unhoused neighbors, the need for ready to eat foods is becoming more critical. Food Lifeline works with grocery stores and food suppliers across the region to source nutritious pre-packaged meals that help people like Edward Vernon. “The food bank sends me snacks, goodies, meals. Stuff I can make sandwiches with. Eggs for breakfast! It’s the most nutrition I’ve had in quite a while.”
Edward has been unhoused for the past year. Not only has he found nutrition at the food bank, but he’s also found a community that cares. “It’s so much more than the food I get. It’s like a family here. They’re genuinely concerned about me. That’s a good feeling.”
Today, Food Lifeline is providing more than 233,000 meals every day to those who need it most, supplying food to more than 400 food distribution sites across Western Washington. But providing healthy and nutritious foods to more than 1.5 million people is just half of the story at Food Lifeline.
Food lifeline believes that food is a human right. While we work to ensure that our neighbors receive the food they need to thrive right now, Food Lifeline is committed to ending hunger for good. To end hunger, we must address the root causes. These root causes show up as poverty, racial inequity, and social injustice. By working with neighborhood and community leaders, Food Lifeline supports local solutions. At the same time, Food Lifeline works closely with federal, state, and local lawmakers to create legislation and programs that create more stability and equity for vulnerable communities. Enhanced SNAP benefits and Child Tax Credit along with universal school meals programs reduced poverty among children by more than 40% during the pandemic. Those supports were not renewed and nationally poverty in children has increased from 5.9% to 12.5% in the last year. This is unacceptable in the wealthiest country in the world.
We’re building a movement to end hunger, and we hope you’ll join us this holiday season by making a financial gift, volunteering in our Hunger Solution Center, or by lending your voice to our advocacy efforts.
Together, we can end hunger, not just for today, but for good.