Fund for State’s Food Banks Launched

Gov. Jay Inslee joined key nonprofits and local philanthropies Tuesday to launch a coordinated, statewide food relief fund that will help reach those in need in every corner of Washington.

With increasingly high demand, supplies at the state’s food banks have dropped to dangerously low levels, with an estimated 1.6 million people — double the usual number — in Washington expected to depend on those supplies this week.

“Washingtonians are generous neighbors who rise to the occasion, and this is a moment for individuals to make a difference,” Inslee said. “By coming together and contributing to this fund, we can meet this demand across the state and help our neighbors and their families put a meal on the table.”

The relief effort, called WA Food Fund, is being managed by Philanthropy Northwest, a network of philanthropic organizations committed to helping communities across the Northwest. The effort will combine business and philanthropic dollars with individual fundraising to have the most effect.

“We call on all those who are able to contribute — whether that’s $5, $10 or more — to do so because that’s enough to provide one meal to a person in need,” said Philanthropy Northwest CEO Kiran Ahuja. “Combining small contributions across the state with those from corporations and foundations will help more Washingtonians get through this crisis.”

Donations will be directed to three organizations that deliver food to every food bank across Washington: Food Lifeline; Northwest Harvest; and Second Harvest.

“We know Washingtonians want to help, and this fund is the way to do that because every person and every dollar makes a difference,” said Food Lifeline CEO Linda Nageotte. “By joining forces across the state, we can get more food faster to people in need.”

Exponential demand for food assistance comes just at a time when some food banks in the state have closed their doors and others may exhaust their funding and supplies this week. Estimates have donations in Washington down 70 percent, a decline disproportionately impacting communities already struggling — such as people of color, immigrants and those in rural areas.

“No matter how much people can contribute, each donated amount helps ease the burden for every person who has lost a job and is struggling to get by,” said Northwest Harvest CEO Thomas Reynolds. “Emergencies can bring out the best in all of us, and we need that generous spirit to bring about equity to our state’s food system.”

According to news reports, more than 350,000 Washington residents filed for unemployment insurance last week, drastically higher than the 182,000 people who submitted claims the previous week.

“I’m confident Washingtonians will find it in their heart to help those who are out of work and may be forced every day to pass up a meal or two,” said Second Harvest CEO Jason Clark. “These are our friends, our family and our neighbors — and just a few dollars can give them some comfort and relief.”

WA Food Fund is focused solely on serving Washington residents and operates separately from the recently launched America’s Food Fund, which will spread its donations across the country to various organizations.

To contribute to the WA Food Fund, visit www.wafoodfund.org.