When I first started working at WSDA, I had a short-sighted view of what our agency did. This is the first of a series of articles looking back at the last year of work my colleagues did. And in the case of this article, I am featuring the work of the Food Assistance programs
and celebrating the incredible perseverance of hundreds of hunger relief organizations they partner with to keep food-insecure Washingtonians nourished. While I can’t capture everything this program or any other at WSDA does (because it is much more than many may realize), I will do my best to share some meaningful highlights.
As the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), it makes sense that our goal is to build better food systems, promote our ag industry, and increase food security. But did you know we have a big role in relieving hunger in our state?
In fact, by working with more than 500 organizations
, WSDA helps feed one in every six households
in our state. That’s two homes on my tiny block alone. That’s a lot of people. How do we do it?
I asked our team of hard-working, passionate folks in our Food Assistance programs, and we have so many different efforts my head was spinning afterward.
This is just a snapshot of what we accomplished in the past year.
The Food Assistance team runs multiple programs
that provide food, funds, technical support, logistics, emergency management, and more to this network of hunger relief organizations. In partnership with these hard-working organizations, our programs have been able to help lessen the impact of food supply challenges, economic instability, and increased community need. Over the past year, these efforts have supplemented the food and nutrition needs of over a million food-insecure Washingtonians and increased economic opportunity for many Washington farmers and producers.
With honor, integrity, transparency, and collaboration, Food Assistance aims to advance equity, expand access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods, and increase ongoing resiliency for the entire hunger relief network of Washington, and all they serve.
Below is an overview of the multiple programs run by Food Assistance – in partnership with hundreds of food pantries, food banks, tribes, and other hunger relief organizations – and their impact in 2022.
Commodity Supplemental Food Program
|Strawberries provided for |
emergency food assistance
A federally funded (United States Department of Agriculture – USDA) program that provides necessary food staples to low-income adults 60 years of age and over. Food Assistance provided $510,000.00 to agencies throughout Washington State to run this program. In 2022, 6154 seniors received monthly, nutrition-focused food packages, the value of which totaled $1.9 million.
Emergency Food Assistance Program
A state-funded program that provides funding to food banks and food pantries to assist with costs associated with hunger relief – including food, operating costs, training, and equipment. In 2022, Food Assistance provided $8.3 million in operational funding to agencies throughout Washington State, and these agencies (community food pantries) leveraged the funds to distribute 181 million pounds of food to 8.4 million food insecure Washington residents.
Emergency Food Assistance Program – Tribal
Through this state-funded program, 31 Washington State tribes received $870,000 in operational funding for their tribal food pantry and voucher programs. These operational funds support both food vouchers (with which food can be purchased from community supermarkets) and tribal food pantry operating costs (including food, training, and equipment), helping to feed 27,000 tribal members in 2022.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
A primarily federally funded (USDA) program that provides food (fresh, frozen, and shelf-stable) to hunger relief organizations (including food pantries and meal programs) for distribution to the community. In 2022, the Food Assistance program purchased and coordinated 894 truckloads and distributed 21 million pounds of food across the state (worth over $30 million), in addition to $7 million of operational funding.
Resiliency Grants and Initiatives
|Apoyo obtained a new food delivery vehicle|
with support from WSDA grant funding
This program, established in 2021, aims to address crisis and build resiliency in the Washington hunger relief system in response to COVID-19 and its long-term effects. Funded through the state Legislature and the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery fund (part of the American Rescue Plan Act), this program awarded more than $20 million through competitive process grants to hunger relief organizations and tribes across Washington, including many new partners. A diverse advisory committee informed the program’s design.
Some of the resiliency-building projects funded in 2022 included:
- Locally grown, culturally relevant produce purchased directly from small farms for distribution.
- Locally grown and raised bison, beef, fish, and wheat for processing and distribution.
- New and repaired coolers and freezers for increased fresh and perishable food capacity.
- Costs of operation, including delivery, staffing (including living wages), rent, and more.
- Refrigerated vehicles for home delivery, mobile pantries, and regional food distribution.
- Warehouse equipment for increased efficiency, capacity, and safety.
Farm to Food Pantry
This program (established in 2014 with Harvest Against Hunger) encourages local resiliency through the establishment of long-term partnerships between hunger relief organizations and small-scale farmers. Through these partnerships, fresh produce is purchased from small farms, then distributed to food-insecure communities. In 2022, 25 participating agencies across 30 counties created new selling markets for 162 small farms. The $263,700 received directly by farmers resulted in 147,708 pounds of nutritious produce that was distributed to the community through 215 hunger relief locations.
TEFAP Farm to Food Bank
This is a federally funded (USDA) short-term grant program (established in 2019) to help reduce food waste and create partnerships between local farmers and growers with the hunger relief organizations in their area. In 2022, approximately $153,000 was awarded to four agencies to harvest, process, and distribute food donated by local growers. And through these partnerships, 127,098 pounds of fresh and processed food was rescued to be distributed to food-insecure individuals.Cook WA Meal Kit
A pilot program established in 2022, modeled after meal kit companies like Hello Fresh. The Food Assistance team partnered with SNAP-Ed and Washington chefs to develop nutritious recipes for food pantry customers. Eleven food banks and one tribal nation participated in 2022, co-packing food, sauces, spices, and recipe cards into over 35,000 two-meal-equivalent meal kits for distribution through food pantries. Reserve Food Warehouse
|FareStart mobile market brings fresh food into|
communities with limited access thanks to
funding support from WSDA.
To help with stability in the hunger relief network amidst food shortages and rising food costs in 2022, Food Assistance team members used a partner organization warehouse to hold purchased shelf-stable foods to be released as needed to the hunger relief network. Over 26 truckloads carrying 974,555 pounds of food were purchased, stored, and distributed to the network from this warehouse in 2022.
TEFAP Reach and Resiliency
A federally funded (USDA) short-term grant established in 2022, helping to expand the TEFAP program into more remote, rural, tribal, low-income, and underserved areas by supporting the additional operating costs; $827,000 was awarded in 2022.
Local Food Purchasing Assistance
A federally funded (USDA-AMS) short-term grant program that helps improve regional supply chain resiliency through partnership. In 2022, $2.7 million was awarded to 29 hunger relief organizations and tribes to establish direct purchase partnerships with socially disadvantaged farmers, producers, and ranchers across the state.