As School Year Nears, Child Hunger Major Struggle in WA

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The new school year is around the corner and one issue in the spotlight in Washington state is child hunger.

Even with free breakfast and lunch students are offered at school, kids still go hungry throughout the year. One in eight children faces food insecurity in the state, according to Feeding America.

Nichelle Hilton is the founder and executive director of Backpack Brigade, an organization based in King County. She said students may have meals at school, but that can change at the end of the school week.

“Then we start talking about weekend hunger, which is our specialty,” said Hilton, “which means if they’re relying on the free breakfast and lunch, they can sometimes go from Friday lunch to Monday breakfast without eating.”

More will get access to free or reduced price meals starting this school year.

Under a bill passed in the state Legislature this year, elementary schools where 40% of more of students qualify for free or reduced price meals will be required to provide free meals to all students.

Hilton said the best solutions to hunger meet families where they are.

“Whether that’s social justice, whether that’s education, whether that’s supportive services, whether that’s food stamps, whether that’s child care,” said Hilton, “there are so many different ways to help that individual family unit get out of where they’re at.”

Thirty percent of households receiving food stamps have children present.

Hilton noted that families who make too much money to qualify for food assistance might still struggle to afford meals because their incomes are so low. She said the country needs to do more to ensure that no family goes hungry.

Featured photo: Nearly 200,000 children in Washington state are facing hunger, according to Feeding America. (FAMILY STOCK/Adobe Stock)

Eric Tegethoff

Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He's also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.

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