SEATTLE – A growing number of Washington state kids are hungry because of the pandemic. Local programs are aiming to reverse this troubling trend.
Hunger rates are projected to increase for children in 97% of the state’s counties, compared to pre-pandemic rates.
Amee Barlet is deputy director of Washington programs for Save the Children. She said her organization has provided more than 12 million meals to Washington state families since the pandemic began, thanks to people on the ground.
“The community knows what they need,” said Barlet. “We know that working with communities is the best way and so we learn from community leaders and our partners how best to serve the families.”
Barlet said their efforts have included food voucher programs for local grocery stores in Yakima so that families can pick out culturally relevant foods and food box distributions.
Tamara Sandberg is the U.S. food security and nutrition advisor for Save the Children. She said one in six children could experience food insecurity this year.
She said Save the Children has made efforts nationwide to connect kids in rural areas with school meals through partnerships with local organizations and school districts.
“Making sure that meals are delivered to children if they can’t access school meals or when school is out,” said Sandberg. “We’ve helped set up school food pantries and new mobile meal delivery routes. We’ve done a number of things in partnership with local organizations.”
Sandberg said federal efforts to fight hunger are important, too. She says two measures of interest in Washington, DC are the Child Nutrition Reauthorization and the next Farm Bill.
Barlet said a story she heard recently underscores how important it is to combat hunger in this moment. She said a Save the Children partner told her about a child whose home was broken into recently.
“The thing that upset the child the most was the fact that the thief took their food,” said Barlet. “Didn’t talk about the TV missing or toys missing – the food was the thing that really upset that child. And I think that that is very telling of the situation that many of our families are facing right now.”
Featured photo: About 13 million children may experience food insecurity in 2021, according to Feeding America. (Renee Jansoa/Adobe Stock)