Northwest Harvest is a statewide hunger relief organization, providing nutritious food to more than 360 food banks, meal programs, and high need schools. We believe that eliminating hunger means fighting its root cause—poverty. To this end, we advocate for public policies that 1) promote access to nutritious food, 2) help low-income people meet their basic need, and 3) support budgets that preserve a basic safety net.
Below are a few of the legislative issues Northwest Harvest will be tracking and advocating for at the start of the January 2013 Session of the Washington State Legislature.
Restore funding for the State Food Assistance Program (SFA)
The State Food Assistance Program (SFA) is the food stamp look-alike program that provides important nutrition assistance to legal, documented immigrants who do not otherwise qualify for the federal program. These include aspiring citizens who hold green cards but have lived here for five years or less, individuals whose immigration status is in transition from one legal status to another, and those families who live and work here under legal compact between the U.S. and their countries of origin. Last year, the 11,000 households that receive this assistance saw a 50% reduction in their benefits. These families, including 12,500 children, receive less than $2 per person per day in SFA benefits, and have no other nutrition assistance available to them other than the emergency food system. Add $21 million to restore this program to full benefits for the 2013-15 biennium.
Increase funding for Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP)
Food banks statewide have seen a 35% increase in need for services since the start of the recession in 2008. Unemployment and cuts to other vital services for low-income families have meant that families have sacrificed their food budgets in order to pay for other necessities like healthcare, housing, and transportation. Despite the dramatic increase in clients, food banks have seen decreases in contributions of food and money from the private sector, inconsistent contributions of commodities from the federal government, and have seen no added help from the state’s Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) to help them meet the rise in need or the higher operations and transportation costs. Increasing funds for EFAP will help food banks keep their shelves stocked, their lights on, and their doors open. Add $3.7 million for the biennium.
Restore the Farm to School Program at WSDA
The Farm to Market/School Program provides valuable assistance to Washington’s farmers, helping them understand rules and regulations that enable them to sell their product to schools, day care centers, and other institutions that help Washington’s most vulnerable populations. This program draws down federal dollars, supports Washington growers, and ensures that Washington’s finest produce is served to hungry Washington families in need. Add $500,000 to restore the program.
Find revenue to protect and preserve programs that provide basic services to low-income families
The state of Washington has made over $10 billion in cuts to our state budget over the last four years. These cuts have shredded our safety net, pushing more families into poverty and driving them to the doors of food banks and meal programs. Charity cannot bear the load alone. With state coffers tied up by our obligations pay for improvements to basic education and implementing the health care exchange plus an estimated $900 million revenue shortfall, we cannot afford further cuts to human services to balance our budget. Entire programs will be eliminated, setting Washington further back as we struggle to recover our economy. We need to keep all revenue options on the table to help make sure that children and families aren’t in crisis, creating a solid floor on which families can rebuild their lives.