Not Cool: This week, the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) released a report that confirmed food hardship, or the inability to buy enough food, is not only a problem here in Washington State, but a growing crisis nationally. The report culminates nearly a year of surveying and interviewing hundreds of thousands of families across the country in 2009. In Washington State, the report shows the nearly 1 in 5 families could not afford enough food in 2009. For us here in the Hunger Action Center at Solid Ground, this only confirmed what we already suspected: During this recession, families have to make tough financial choices between food, housing and making ends meet.
The FRAC report shows us that there were more hungry families in 2008 than in 2009, and intuitively we know that there are going to be even more hungry families and children in 2010. One of our close partners in hunger action, Linda Stone, senior food policy coordinator at the Children’s Alliance, commented on the report by stating, “[It] confirms that the recession is taking a heavy toll on families across Washington State, and the number of kids who spend their days hungry is on the rise. Our state and national lawmakers need to make it a top priority to protect meal programs that keep our children well nourished and ready to learn.” Feeding hungry children by protecting Washington State meal programs is certainly one of the many, and most important, strategic steps in helping reduce the number of hungry families, but we need more.
As I mentioned earlier, families across our State are making tough financial choices to make ends meet. These choices include paying for rent or mortgages, transportation costs to get to and from work, medical bills, health insurance, childcare, food – the list goes on. Yes, providing meals and food assistance to children and families will help many, but we also need to protect other programs that help working families keep working. So let us not just ask our legislators this session to invest in all meal programs for children, families and seniors but also to protect General Assistance Unemployable (GAU), fund the implementation of the Working Families Tax Rebate, and maintain and fund the Basic Health Plan and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grants at a level that provides real assistance to hungry and needy families.
This legislative session our state representatives are going to have to make some tough financial decisions, and they also are going to need help making ends meet. Please let them know that they are not alone.
(Editor’s note: for a personal look at the impact of GAU, see this article in the recent Real Change News featuring the legendary Artis the Spoonman)