Dear Governor Inslee,
Hunger in Washington state is a problem that has not
subsided. In fact, hunger relief agencies today are seeing demand at levels
that exceed, in many cases, food insecurity during the peak of the pandemic.
Hunger relief food bank distribution centers are purchasing
more food than ever before - at higher costs, moving it faster, and maintaining
their lowest levels of inventory. It has become the new normal.
Washington landfills are overburdened with wasted food that
contributes to methane emissions, the most dangerous form of greenhouse gas. It
is why the state established goals for Washington to reduce the annual
generation of food waste by 50 percent by 2030.
Washington growers and producers produce food in abundance
and have incredible amounts that end up unsold. These foods are often, but not
maximally, donated at nominal "pick and pack out" costs to hunger relief efforts. For example, Feeding
Washington, the nonprofit produce cooperative of the state’s two Feeding
America partners, sourced more than 53 million pounds of donated Washington
produce last year – only scratching the surface regarding what is available.
For these reasons, we are requesting that you include $25 million in your 2024 State Operating Budget proposal for harvesting and transportation costs associated with donated agricultural commodities. These are monies paid to Washington growers and producers for processing and packaging donated agricultural products in an acceptable size for food banks.
This investment would nearly double the food available for
hunger relief efforts statewide – food that may otherwise be lost – at a time
when it is needed most. It is estimated that an additional 52.5 million pounds
of produce and up to 10 million pounds of highly desired items like meat,
seafood, eggs, and dairy products are available to be distributed throughout
the state’s existing food banking networks.
To be sure, this potential to divert more than 60 million
pounds of Washington agricultural commodities is a win for Washington families,
a win for Washington farmers and food producers, and a win for the climate.
Thank you for your consideration.