Opinion Columns & Blogs

Partisan bickering stands in the way of hunger relief

On Nov. 1, approximately 200,000 households in Washington lost up to $90 in monthly food assistance. The drastic cuts, in some cases making up nearly a quarter of food assistance, are scheduled to continue through December.

Tragically, cuts to SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly “food stamps”) are not the result of a drop in the poverty rate. They are the painful result of the partisan divide over the role and responsibility of government in tough economic times.

With Gov. Jay Inslee’s common sense intervention, SNAP cuts should end in January for Washingtonians in need. The two months of struggle, however, will not go unnoticed.

November and December are months of peak demand at food banks, with holiday rushes straining emergency food networks. Families already on the edge may be forced to make troubling decisions between food, rent, nutrition or gas, with the consequences falling hard on children and the elderly.

Though the home of major and growing technology and aerospace businesses, Washington is one of only three states where poverty continues to grow.

Despite their partisan divides, our state and federal governments must compromise around issues of poverty and opportunity.

An October survey from the Food Research Action Center and Tyson Foods found that 86 percent of voting-age Americans believe that no one in America should go hungry. Perhaps unsurprisingly, two out of five Americans have either experienced hunger in the past year or personally know someone who has. A majority surveyed also believe that it will take a combination of government and private charitable efforts to resolve hunger.

The message could not be more clear. Partisan bickering stands in the way of hunger relief, despite substantial bipartisan support among voters and a personal connection to many Washingtonians.

Northwest Harvest and Nutrition First urge our newly elected and returning members of Congress to strengthen programs like SNAP, WIC and the child nutrition programs that provide healthy meals to children where they live, go to school and play.

We urge our state legislators to protect the fragile safety net of programs that help families in need so that financial crises are not barriers to learning for kids in school. We ask you to listen to the voters of our state, standing against hunger across demographic and party lines and recognizing that government programs are instrumental in helping many Washington families get back on their feet. Our organizations join to send out a call to action to support legislation that strengthens food assistance. The healthy future of our community and state depend on you.

Northwest Harvest and Nutrition First are proud to stand against hunger in our community, and we invite all others to join. Our organizations work to increase access to nutritious food for low-income people.

Northwest Harvest distributes nutritious food with an emphasis on produce to a network of more than 370 food banks, meal programs and high-need schools throughout Washington. Nutrition First provides education and training to ensure young children and families with limited resources have opportunities for better nutrition. Both organizations advocate for investing strategically to improve our state and federal governments’ response to hunger.

Shelley Rotondo is the CEO of Seattle-based Northwest Harvest; Kristen Rezabek is the executive director of Nutrition First.