396,000 Washington families now struggle every day to put food on the table.
Families face increasingly tough challenges to make ends meet and put food on the table. Over the past three years, the number of hungry families grew by 85% across Washington. Now when it is needed more than ever, our coalition supports a balanced approach to the state budget that restores and protects our state’s hunger relief system so we can ensure our neighbors can meet their most basic need: food.
2014 Legislative Priorities
Restore full funding for the State Food Assistance Program (SFA)
The State Food Assistance Program (SFA) is Washington’s food stamp look alike program for legally residing immigrants who are ineligible for federal assistance under federal law. We are grateful for the support and commitment of the Legislature, which last year restored SFA benefits to 75% of Basic Food benefits, but on Nov. 1, SFA and Basic Food were cut due to the expiration of an economic stimulus boost to the federal food stamp program. This means that the average family of 4 that lives on SFA benefits lost $27/month in food assistance. Add $4.6 million to SFA to fully restore benefit levels for the rest of the 2013-15 biennium.
Increase funding the Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP, state funding for food banks)(EFAP)
According to the Washington Department of Agriculture, 1 in 5 Washington residents rely on food banks to feed themselves and their families. Despite the sluggish economic recovery, food banks are serving more clients since before the recession and are seeing clients return more often each month, unable to meet household food needs on income alone. Cuts to Basic Food will only increase the strain on food banks. Increasing funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) will provide much needed relief to food banks to make purchases of food, including protein and fresh produce. These are items that are expensive but high in demand and more importantly, high in need for hungry families. Add $1 million to EFAP for the biennium, an amount that could leverage up to 3 million additional meals.
Restore Funding for Farmers Market Nutrition Programs for WIC and Seniors
The Farmers Market Nutrition Programs for WIC and for Seniors offer vouchers that help some of Washington’s most vulnerable populations purchase fresh, and nutritious produce at farmers markets. The program helps small farmers earn a living wage while making produce more affordable and accessible to low income seniors and young children who are most in need for that nutritious content. It’s a win-win bargain, helping to sustain small farms while ensuring access to healthy food for seniors and young children. After sustaining significant cuts the program is only serving 20-25% of eligible people. Restore $500,000 to the Farmers Market Nutrition Programs for WIC and for Seniors.
Increase Participation Rates in Washington’s School Breakfast Program
Washington currently ranks 39th in the nation in the participation rate for school breakfast by kids who are eligible for a free or reduced price lunch. Breakfast is a cost efficient and important tool for improving academic performance, reducing disruptive behaviors, and combating child obesity. Legislation in other states and studies have shown that participation rates increase when barriers to participation are removed. We support efforts to increase student access to the school breakfast program by helping schools – especially high need schools – serve Breakfast After the Bell.
Our coalition continues to support efforts to reform our state’s regressive tax system. We support the closure of outdated tax expenditures, increased transparency in the creation of and renewal of tax expenditures, and finding new and sustainable sources of revenue in order to protect, strengthen and restore key nutrition programs and other services that help low-income families in Washington meet their basic needs.
To read about our past Legislative Agendas, Click Here.