Community Sign-On Written Testimony: Support Governor's Funding Requests for Anti-Hunger Programs
Dear Chair Rolfes and the Members of Senate Ways & Means /
Dear Chair Ormsby and the Members of House Appropriations

We the undersigned organizations submit this written statement to signify our support for the Governor’s budget. This budget is the strongest we have seen offered from any governor to make much needed investments to mitigate hunger, reduce poverty, and promote racial equity.

The number of households that struggle with food insecurity is estimated to have nearly doubled during the pandemic. The public health crisis of hunger in our state disproportionately impacts households of color, who are experiencing food insecurity at twice (and nearly three times, for Latinx households) the rate of their White peers. As of mid-December, 1 in 8 Washington adults with children report not having enough food to feed themselves or their children. That is a deeply troubling trend, as parents typically ensure that their kids eat first, often skipping meals or eating scraps so their children have enough food.

According to DSHS, applications for Basic Food (food stamps) have increased by 11% between October 2019-October 2020; in fact, March 2020 had the steepest increase in food stamp applications (70%) in modern history. Basic Food is our first line of defense against hunger, used by low income people to buy food from grocery stores, farmers markets, and other certified retailers. This highly effective program promotes nutrition while stimulating our economy: in recessions, every $1 of Basic Food benefits spent generates $1.79 in local economic activity.

This budget recognizes the benefits of Basic Food, strengthening it in three critical ways:
• Extends funding for DOH’s Fruit and Vegetable Incentives program, partnering with grocery stores, farmers markets, and health clinics to help more low income people afford to buy fruits and vegetables.

• Extends DSHS’ Transitional Food Assistance program to families with children leaving food assistance and provide a small, one-time cash benefit and 5 months of additional federally-funded food benefits so they don’t face the sudden “benefit cliff” as they transition to work or slightly higher paid jobs, and have to choose between food and other necessities in this period.

• Restores the parity between the federal SNAP program and our state-funded look-alike food stamp program for legally residing immigrants, as required in our state code.

This budget also provides significant and critical support to food banks to help meet historic increases in demands for services—up to 300% in some areas of the state. This funding will increase food banks’ ability to source food and purchase equipment based on local needs; offset increased operating costs due to the prolonged loss of food donations and volunteers during this pandemic; and, support relationships between food banks and local growers and producers – a win/win for local food systems.

Finally, this budget also provides critical new support to help both our school meal programs and Washington’s growers by funding Farm to School grants to improve the quality of meals while bolstering economic opportunities for small and mid-scale producers.

Food is the most essential of basic needs. Food helps our children focus on learning in school and is a vital ingredient to promote good health for all. Our organizations ask you to keep these investments at the Governor’s requested funding levels in the final operating budget and to support new revenue resources to make these and other crucial investments in safe and affordable housing, rental assistance, and cash assistance programs for low income families.
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