Demand grows for food bank services

Food banks across Washington are managing additional demand for services as more families seek assistance during the worst economic downturn in 70 years. Job growth remains stubbornly slow in many areas and local nutrition programs are the lifeline that help put food on the table.

Nutrition programs have experienced dramatic growth in demand since the beginning of the recession. The Food Assistance Programs operated by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) have experienced a 27-percent increase in demand the past two years. WSDA helped local and tribal agencies serve approximately 1.7 million clients in the past year, up from 1.3 million during the same period in 2008.

Nearly two out of five clients of state food assistance programs are under the age 18 or over 55.

“The agriculture community continues to be very generous in its support to food programs,” said WSDA Director Dan Newhouse. “As our families gather during the holiday season, we must remember our neighbors — especially the children and seniors — who worry about where they’ll find their next meal.”

Newhouse has been meeting with grower groups this fall to thank them for the millions of pounds of Washington-grown foods donated to food banks. Farmers donate crops and participate in volunteer gleaning programs that help harvest food in the fields and orchards to benefit nutrition programs. Food processors and packers also donate truckloads of frozen and packaged foods to local, statewide and national distribution programs.

Growers or processors interested in donating food should call their local food bank or contact WSDA at or (253) 593-2035.

One in seven Washington families is experiencing hunger as the global economic downturn drags on. The most recent USDA Household Food Security report shows that 14 percent of households in Washington were unsure of how they will put enough food on the table, compared to 10 percent just three years ago.

WSDA assumed responsibility for the state’s food assistance programs on July 1, 2010. The state and federally funded programs help over 450 food banks, shelters and meal providers distribute 127 million pounds of food each year. That equates to 85 million meals a year to Washington’s hungry families.