Helping the Hungry

Hunger relief is still a serious issue in Washington State. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the rate of hunger in 2012 was 5.7% nationally, and Washington’s rate of 6.1% continues to exceed the national rate. Nationally, 16 million children live in households that experience food insecurity – 21.6% of all children. The Children’s Alliance estimates that up to 400,000 children in Washington live in food insecure households[1].

It is difficult to get to work, concentrate in school, or raise a family when you’re hungry. This issue is further complicated when the government cuts funding for key services such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps—in fact, the 2014 Farm Bill cut $8.7 billion in food stamp benefits over the next 10 years. Thankfully, many of our Community Action agencies are answering the call for hunger relief. Collectively we are part of a network of food assistance programs that distributed 132.3 million pounds of food in 2013 to serve hungry people through the state[2].

[1] “Hungry in Washington 2013”, Children’s Alliance, 2013.

[2]Summary of Emergency Food Assistance Program Closeout Report for SFY 2013”, Washington State Department of Agriculture, 2013.

Kaleigh's Story

Kaleigh’s first visit to the food bank at Multi-Service Center (MSC) was when she was 16 years old. At that time, she was living with her aunt who became injured and unable to work. “It’s hard to come to the food bank, but you have to do what you have to do to survive,” said Kaleigh.

Kaleigh described her aunt as a “prideful girl” who didn’t want to reach out for help from anyone. When they arrived, Warehouse Manager Tammy explained the process and told them how much food out of each basket they could take based on their family size. “Tammy made it easier for my aunt because she showed her respect and told her that she wasn’t alone – there were so many others in her situation,” said Kaleigh.

Several months after their first visit to the food bank, Kaleigh moved out of her aunt’s home. In exchange for room and board at her new place, Kaleigh watched the homeowner’s children. Getting them onto the bus made her late for school, and eventually she stopped going. Kaleigh tried to take online courses, but watching the children made it impossible for her to study or focus, and she did not finish high school.

Now 23, and back at her aunt’s house after several moves, Kaleigh is enrolled in MSC’s GED Program. She is studying hard and hoping to take and pass all four content areas of the GED by April of this year. Kaleigh and her aunt continue to visit the food bank as needed, and Kaleigh often helps out in the food bank prior to her GED preparation appointment.

“It makes things worse when people put you down. The way MSC treats you makes you feel more human. I want to do that for someone else,” shared Kaleigh. Kaleigh’s future plans include both doing something creative and advocating for homeless people.

· Kaleigh, MSC Client

Hunger Relief Solutions

The Community Action network provides a number of hunger relief solutions through your local agency and across Washington State such as:

  • Food banks and home delivery programs
  • Hot meal services
  • Summer meal programs for children
  • Food distribution centers