King County passes motion to help struggling food banks
King County has recently passed a measure that would identify resources to help local food banks struggling to meet the increased demand they have been facing amid rising inflation and limited federal support.
During the pandemic, food banks around the country had substantial federal funding, according to Lindsey Habenicht, Executive Director of the Maple Valley food bank.
“It’s a really interesting turn of events for food banks, because we were seeing money that we had never seen before,” Habenicht said. “And we were also seeing government support as we had never seen before. So that came in the form of both dollars that we could use for food purchasing, and also actual products.”
Last year, the City of Seattle and the King County Department of Public Health administered approximately $5 million in federal Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery funds for food banks. However, there are no more federal funds budgeted for food banks, according to King County Executive staff.
But now that the pandemic is winding down, that money is beginning to run out, and local food banks have said donations are way down.
“Those funding pools kind of have just dried up, despite us seeing more people than during the pandemic,” Habenicht said.
Last week, the King County Council approved a motion to help food banks find additional resources, and if the County Executive’s Office signs off on the motion, they will be tasked to conduct outreach to food banks to determine how best to help.
“It’s no secret that grocery bills are soaring across King County, causing more and more folks to turn to their local food bank for help feeding their families,” King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn said in a statement. “In turn, our food banks need a little help so they can meet those increasing needs as operating costs rise.”
According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index report, food prices have increased 10.8% since last August and inflation is up more than 8% from 2021. This is a big reason why people struggling to make ends meet are increasingly utilizing food banks.
Once the outreach is complete, the county would then move to implement solutions and create a comprehensive report by February 2023
Habenicht said they are seeing an additional 300 families each month using their services and that some programs may have to be cut if things continue this way. She explained the best way you can personally help out.
“In the same way that we’re super grateful for the council legislation moving forward on this, it gives us support, it’s the same for individuals, right?” Habenicht said. “I think when we can put our dollars to serve our neighbors, well, and we can put them towards organizations who are already doing the good work to feed people [and] to house people. That’s where the magic happens.”
Chris Martin contributed to this report.