Almost one in five households across Washington state reported they didn’t have enough money to buy the food they needed in 2009. Families with kids are hurting even more, with 23 percent saying they struggled to put food on their tables, according to a new report released by the Food Research and Action Center.
On a national level, food hardship — or the inability to afford enough food — peaked in the fourth quarter of 2008 at 19.5 percent, then slid slightly to 18.5 percent in the fourth quarter of last year. But in Washington the problem got worse, rising from 16 percent in 2008 to 18 percent last year.
“This report confirms that the recession is taking a heavy toll on families across Washington state, and the number of kids who spend their days hungry is on the rise,” said Linda Stone, senior food policy coordinator at the Children’s Alliance. “Our state and national lawmakers need to make it a top priority to protect meal programs that keep our children well nourished and ready to learn.”
Official government data on hunger rates typically have a one-year lag and don’t go below the state level. Because of the large sample size (530,000 people took part in the survey, conducted by Gallup), “Food Hardship: A Closer Look at Hunger” provides a more detailed, localized and recent look at food hardship.
Some of the highlights about Washington state:
- Spokane County’s food hardship rate was 20 percent in 2008-09, greater than the statewide average; it was even higher for families with children at 28 percent.
- For the Seattle metropolitan area, which includes Bellevue and Tacoma, the food hardship rate was 14 percent overall and 18 percent for families with children.
- Three Congressional districts had higher food hardship rates than the statewide average: the 5th District (Northeast and Southeast Washington) at 20 percent, and the 3rd District (Southwest Washington) and 6th District (Tacoma and the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas) at 19 percent each.
These new numbers are especially relevant as child nutrition programs are up for reauthorization before Congress this year. The Children’s Alliance has joined FRAC in calling for improvements to a range of federal nutrition programs, including school and summer meals.
During this year’s legislative session, the Children’s Alliance is urging state lawmakers to help schools, nonprofits, tribes, cities and faith-based organizations hire local people to run summer meal programs, which are woefully underutilized statewide. Last summer, only 11 percent of the 300,000 Washington kids who ate free or reduced-price school breakfasts or lunches during the school year had access to summer meals.
A modest investment of $250,000 in state dollars could leverage up to $4 million in federal money that would give summer meal programs additional food at a time when hunger-relief organizations are struggling to feed the growing number of families in need.
- For the Children’s Alliance “Summertime Hunger in Washington State” report, go to: http://childrensalliance.org/sites/default/files/SummerHunger%20Report_1_11_lowres.pdf.
- For the FRAC food hardship report, go to: http://frac.org/pdf/food_hardship_report_2010.pdf.
- For FAQs on food hardship, go to: http://frac.org/pdf/food_hardship_faq_2010.pdf.
Jon Gould, Deputy Director, (206) 324-0340 x19, cell: (206) 683-2674, firstname.lastname@example.org
Linda Stone, Senior Food Policy Coordinator, (509) 747-7205, (509) 844-1314 (cell), email@example.com
Liz Gillespie, Communications Manager, (206) 324-0340 x18, cell: (206) 589-0293, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Children’s Alliance is a statewide public policy advocacy organization that works at the state and federal level to ensure that all children have what they need to thrive. Current campaigns focus on health care, ending childhood hunger, early learning, and foster care. Our membership includes 125 organizations and more than 10,000 individuals statewide who are members of our Children’s Action Network. To sign up for our media list, e-mail Liz Gillespie at email@example.com.