by Andrea Bernard and Willea Cooks
We are the women of Got Green’s Food Access Team. We welcome the City of Seattle’s proposed Sugary Beverage Tax (SBT), but urge the Mayor and City Council to reinvest ⅓ of the revenue in expanded programs that close the food security gap for working families.
The Food Access Team is made up of single mothers with young children. Some of us have jobs making a decent wage, but recently experiencing a raise in our rents. Meanwhile, we struggle to put the healthy food on the table that our kids require to stay fit in playing sports and being present in school.
In 2015, we advocated to fund and expand the City’s Fresh Bucks Program, a matching program that gives low-income families more healthy food dollars at Farmers Markets. Yet, some of us are not able to benefit from the Fresh Bucks program because we do not qualify for EBT/SNAP. (Electronic Benefit Transfer/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Washington’s state food assistance program).
Like an estimated 122,000 Seattle households, we fall into what’s called the “Food Security Gap” – those who are unable to afford to put healthy food on their tables. These families earn too much to qualify for assistance programs like Fresh Bucks, but earn too little to pay for the rising cost of healthy food along with the rising cost of living in Seattle.
One of our Food Access Team members, Kim, is a pregnant single mother with a five-year-old daughter. According to Kim: “I work 2 part time jobs so that I am able to pay my rent and bills. Although I have 2 jobs, I don’t always have enough money for food. Because I have 2 jobs I do not qualify for the SNAP program and often take my child to my sister’s or mother’s house to have meals.”
Families like ours will continue to fall into the food security gap and face long-term health issues unless existing programs are strengthened, including:
- Expanding the Fresh Bucks program and Good Food Bags, which are currently only available to people who qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Expanding Fresh Bucks into locally-owned grocery markets
- Supporting the Rainier Beach Food Innovation District, which aims to create green job pathways in food production, from locally sourced produce, for young people and underserved communities.
Access to healthy local food is an important pillar for our community’s health and is tied together with equitable outcomes in education. We have learned from our communities that if a child does not have access to healthy food, they may not be able to attend school, or be able to be fully present and learn as their full selves. Many studies support this connection between healthy food and improved education outcomes. 
The City must include ⅓ of the revenue from the Sugary Beverage Tax for programs that close the food security gap, so that we move the fight against obesity towards health equity and address disproportionate impacts on our communities. More than ever, they need to hear and represent our voices as they work on this important revenue so that our families can thrive.
For more information, visit Got Green Seattle
 This figure is the number of Seattle households that qualify for childcare assistance through the City or State of WA minus the number of Seattle households that receive Federal SNAP. In King County an estimated 271,380 households (10%) cannot reliably put enough food or enough healthy food on their table. Almost half (45%) of these food-insecure households earn above 200% of the federal poverty level and are not eligible for food stamps. 271,380 households x 45% = 122,121 households.
 See, for example, “3 Ways Nutrition Influences Student Learning Potential and School Performance” and studies cited therein.
 See the City of Seattle’s “Racial Equity Toolkit to Assess Policies, Initiatives, Programs, and Budget Issues” Link: www.seattle.gov/Documents/…/RSJI/RacialEquityToolkit_FINAL_August2012.pdf
Featured image courtesy of Got Green