The King County Council on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2022 unanimously approved a motion that tasks King County with identifying resources to help local food banks that are struggling to meet increased demand amid the compounding impacts of rising inflation, labor shortages, and historic interest rate spikes.
The legislation was co-sponsored by Councilmembers Reagan Dunn, Girmay Zahilay, and Sarah Perry, and locally will benefit the Highline Area Food Bank, White Center Food Bank and Des Moines Area Food Bank.
“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. In turn, our food banks need a little help so they can meet those increasing needs as operating costs rise,” Dunn said. “I am grateful to my colleagues on the Council for unanimously supporting this legislation so that we can amplify the efforts of the organizations that are working day in and day out to serve those in our communities who are struggling to make ends meet.”
As emergency COVID-19 aid wanes, food banks are left with fewer resources even as record level inflation rates have more people to turning to food banks for assistance. Those same inflation rates have reduced the amount of donations food banks are receiving and have also increased the costs of buying food to keep their supply sufficiently stocked.
“We know it’s our responsibility to not only feed families but feed them well,” said Maple Valley Food Bank Executive Director Lindsey Habenicht. “Now, increasing client counts paired with increasing costs of goods are forcing organizations like ours to ask ‘how?’ Currently, we are prepared to face the devastatingly grim reality that some of our programs may need to be cut if we don’t soon find new financial supports to help us bridge the gap.”
This legislation asks King County to look at all possible ways to support food banks, Nourishing Networks, and other organizations working to reduce food insecurity by performing outreach to identify what kind of assistance needed, and then determining what form of aid the County can provide, such as grants or volunteer recruitment.
“Food banks are vital pillars of our communities. They feed families in need, provide water during the many heat waves over the summer, and even connect individuals to resources like rental assistance, job training, health services, and more,” Zahilay said. “If we want healthy and happy communities, we must support our food banks. I’m proud to work directly with food banks and community members to create this legislation to promote food security in District 2 and throughout King County.”
According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index report for Seattle in August 2022, inflation is up more than 8% from 2021. Food prices have jumped 10.8% from a year ago, led by a 13.4% increase in the cost of groceries. The report also detailed how energy prices increased 20% percent over the year, largely due to the 24.3% increase in gas prices.
“Hunger insecurity is at a critical point in our region and so many more of our families, loved ones, friends and neighbors are turning to our local food banks to help make ends meet for themselves and/or their families. We need to do all that we can to support our community members who are Seniors, Veterans, single parents and their children as they are the most vulnerable and depend the most on our food support programs to get by,” Perry said. “Approving this motion will allow King County to focus on solutions that support organizations working hard to reduce food insecurity across our region.”