Households that rely on food pantries, meal deliveries and schools for their daily nutrition saw their options diminish over the weekend of Feb. 12 as nearly a foot of snow fell on Seattle and surrounding cities, slowing deliveries and shuttering food banks.
Thousands of children rely on afterschool snacks or supper served at schools, YMCA locations and libraries. Most of those meals will not be served because of the weather.
“We are very concerned about the number of students who are missing out on school breakfast and lunch each day during the snow,” said Lauren McGowan, senior director of Ending Homelessness and Poverty with United Way of King County. “In King County alone that’s more than 63,000 kids per day that typically eat and many more who are eligible to eat free or reduced price school meals.”
Food banks at Pike Place Market and the University District were open on Feb. 11, according to the Seattle Human Services Department (HSD), but four other food banks were closed.
Most senior centers, which serve as activity and meal centers for Seattle’s elders, were closed because of the snow, Jason Johnson, interim HSD director, said at a press conference.
Pike Market Senior Center and Food Bank provided breakfast and lunch for people 55 and older and access to the food pantry for people of all ages. The program serves between 70 and 120 people per meal, but deliveries were delayed when the snow and ice hit, Deputy Director Mason Lowe said.
“Worst comes to worst, we’ll grab our debit card and go to Target and get our ingredients there,” Lowe said.
Between 40- and 50-percent of clients experience homelessness, Lowe said, and many have disabilities.
Meal delivery programs that bring meals to the homes of older adults and vulnerable populations have been hampered by the snow. Meals on Wheels, a program of Sound Generations, is running limited deliveries, Johnson said.
The Chicken Soup Brigade brings meals to older adults and people living with HIV and other chronic conditions. The program canceled meal deliveries on Feb. 8 and 9 because of the snow.
“We had all hands-on-deck earlier today, including our executive team, working on bagging meals,” said Mark Baker, deputy executive director at Lifelong.
Volunteers and staff who have cars with four-wheel drive worked to get food out to clients before the snow came, Baker said.
Bad weather exacerbates ongoing food insecurity in Seattle and King County.
Fifteen percent of adults over the age of 18 in King County experienced food insecurity in 2013, meaning they were worried that they would run out of food before they had the money to buy more, or they couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals.
Between 2014 and 2016, the state found that 12 percent of Washingtonians were food insecure.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC
Read the full Feb. 13 - 19 issue.
Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating for economic, social and racial justice. Since 1994 our award-winning weekly newspaper has provided an immediate employment opportunity for people who are homeless and low income. Learn more about Real Change.