Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The SNAP Lifeline

This blog has been reprinted courtesy of Jewish Family Service. For more information see: http://blog.jfsseattle.org/the-snap-lifeline/

SNAP. Basic Food. Food stamps. Whichever name you know it by, you know it as the lifeline for many families to get their basic food needs met. Starting this month, about 200,000 King County households will see drastic cuts to this vital resource by as much as $90 per month. These cuts will affect SNAP beneficiaries who have heating and cooling utility costs included in their rent or mortgage payments, making their families even more food insecure through the end of the year.

“Why is this happening?” you may be wondering. Good question. In February, Congress passed the 2014 Farm Bill, limiting options for states to provide utility assistance to households. Because SNAP benefits are calculated in part by how much utility assistance a household receives, an estimated one-third of Basic Food recipients will see a cut to their benefits.

The good news is Governor Jay Inslee opted to implement a new program that will put SNAP benefits back where they were. The bad news is it will not be implemented until January, leaving some families without the means to meet their basic food needs for two months.

Despite receiving notifications about these temporary cuts, we expect many families will be confused.

These substantial cuts to Basic Food benefits will force clients to have to make some tough choices, especially with winter and the holidays approaching. Some families may be forced to choose between having enough food for the month, or buying warm clothes and jackets for their kids. Many parents may not be able to afford to buy holiday gifts for their children. Many are likely to fall behind in their rent, and some parents will skip meals to make sure their kids get enough to eat.

As we’ve seen with previous SNAP cuts, the burden often falls on food banks to bridge the gap. Because of this sudden increased stress on food banks, food supply may run low and clients may not receive as much as they normally would.

SNAP is one of the most essential tools Americans living below the poverty line have to help feed their families. When SNAP comes under attack, so do our efforts to help people meet their basic food needs. When benefits are cut, families are cut off from the vital resources that allow them to put food on the table.

By Bailey Toth
Bailey Toth is a Lutheran Volunteer Corps member and is completing her year of service as the Food Bank Specialist in the Polack Food Bank. She graduated with her BS in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She is passionate about social justice, vegan cooking, reading, being active in the community and cats.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Food Bank Visits in Seattle on the Rise

Food Bank Visits in Seattle on the Rise

by Jana Lissiak, Jewish Family Service Food Bank Manager


The lines at the Jewish Family Service Polack Food Bank on Capitol Hill just keep getting longer. We are serving more people than ever before, but unfortunately we are not unique in Seattle. New luxury apartment buildings and trendy restaurants seem to be springing up all around, and by many accounts Seattle’s economy is beating national trends and continues to grow. But at a time when Seattle is booming, it seems the city’s prosperity is not reaching all of its residents, and some are clearly being left behind. Those not on the upper rungs of the economic ladder are falling further behind and must increasingly supplement their kitchens with help from the city’s food banks. Seattle food banks are not able to keep up with this intensifying demand. The average amount of food each household is actually able to receive per visit is decreasing.   

Between 2012 and 2013 food banks had to stretch to provide food for over 47,000 additional visits.  If the increasing demand seen in the first half of 2014 continues, food banks will need to provide for an additional 90,000 visits. This is on top of the already inflated 2013 service levels. 


Seattle’s food banks are working diligently to keep up with the growing lines, but our data shows that despite our best efforts, we are not keeping pace. The average amount of food given to each household during a visit has decreased by 20% since 2009. The average pounds per household distributed at each service decreased between 2009 and the first half 2014, from 31.3lbs to 24.9lbs.

November and December will likely be even more challenging this year. As many as one-third of SNAP participants will see a reduction in SNAP benefits of up to $90 per month as rules from the new Farm Bill are implemented. Luckily, for Washington State residents, this will only be a temporary reduction, but it will make this holiday season more challenging for many of the families we serve and will undoubtedly increase the lines at food banks even further. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Food Bank Profile: Puget Sound Labor Agency

The Puget Sound Labor Agency (PSLA) Food Bank was established in 1975 by Seattle labor unions to provide assistance to striking union workers facing hardships.  Today, the PSLA food bank, located in the Seattle Labor Temple, has expanded its services to include a six zip code service area and individuals who are retired, disabled, underemployed or unemployed. After facing a few difficult years during which the food bank was at risk of closing down, the current food bank director Morgan Stine is wholeheartedly committed to rebuilding the reputation of the food bank by creating a safe and trusting atmosphere for clients.

Although the process of bringing this food bank back to life has been slow and challenging, in less than a year the PSLA volunteer base has expanded from 4 to 29 individuals. Morgan is also hoping to expand services by adding another distribution day during the week or incorporating a mobile food bank delivery system on top of the existing programs. The food bank currently distributes food on Mondays and Fridays, hosts a hygiene station every two weeks, provides no cook food bags, and is dedicated to extending assistance to disabled individuals by ensuring ramp access.

Rooted in Seattle’s historically strong labor unions, the PSLA food bank continues to utilize these connections by relying on relationships with unions to support current efforts. The PSLA upholds authentic ties to this long lasting foundation by collecting donations exclusively from donors who support the rights of workers to organize.   Director Morgan Stine addresses each challenge with enthusiasm and is happy to be in the place he is, clearly passionate about the work of the PSLA organization.  Backed with this solid base, the PSLA food bank is heading into a bright future as it continues to grow, build strong relationships, and nourish the community.  

Monday, June 16, 2014

West Seattle Food Bank

After a Seattle Food Committee meeting last Monday, a group of members were able to witness West Seattle Food Bank’s emphasis on efficiency and quality as a van tightly packed with banana boxes full of fresh produce and deli items was skillfully unloaded and organized.  The West Seattle Food Bank’s dedication to creating and maintaining positive relations with their community enables them to continually receive generous donation similar to this one from surrounding community partners.  The sincere connections made with neighboring grocers and donors allow the food bank to provide their clients with substantial and fresh food on a regular basis.

 Due to their reputation of providing desirable and dependable foods, clients of the food bank are able to expect and rely on quality items with every visit to the food bank. The West Seattle Food Bank takes a lot of pride in the value and breadth of the food they provide to their clients but take their efforts further by centering their methods of distribution in compassion and generosity.   Everything comes down to the needs of the client and ensuring that they receive what they need in a generous and respectful manner.  In order to address the various needs of their clients, the West Seattle Food Bank runs a number of programs including a Baby Corner program, a Bookcase program, a backpack program, and personalized Home Delivery for elderly or disabled individuals. With its numerous programs and undying commitment to distributing food to individuals facing hunger, the West Seattle food Bank offers a lot of support to its community. 

  Not only is a strong sense of community promoted between the food bank and visiting clients, but the West Seattle Food Bank values the community created among their own volunteers who are crucial to its functionality.  This wide base of volunteers consists of students pulled from neighboring schools to long standing volunteers who have stood by the food bank for many years.  The effort of these gracious volunteers partnered with a team of dedicated staff allows the West Seattle Food Bank to be such a notable and influential force in their community.  


Thanks to Huskinson Productions for this video.    

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

2,000 Turkeys at the Food Bank @ St.Mary's

Take an inside look at Thanksgiving distribution at The Food Bank at St. Mary's.  A volunteer captures all the food bank goes through to ensure that guests receive nutritious foods for the holidays.  See the original post here at the Dan V World blog.