by Sandra LeDuc
More Seattle families will have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, thanks to an expansion of the City of Seattle’s Fresh Bucks program. The city has just added $1.3 million for the program in the newly approved 2021 city budget, making it possible to enroll 3,100 people currently on the Fresh Bucks waitlist to begin receiving vouchers in December and continuing through 2021.
Fresh Bucks customers receive $40 in monthly benefits to purchase fruits and vegetables from participating Seattle farmers markets, neighborhood grocers, and Seattle Safeway stores. With the program’s expansion, there are 12,100 Seattle households served, in addition to the city’s emergency grocery voucher program that has supported 14,000 households.
A report from Seattle-King County Public Health showed that food insecurity has nearly doubled in Seattle during the pandemic, with nearly 1 in 10 families reporting that they do not have enough to eat or could not afford to buy more food. Households with children are more likely to experience food insecurity, and Latinx, Black, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander populations are disproportionately represented among King County residents seeking food assistance.
“We aren’t through this pandemic yet. The hardships like food insecurity created by COVID-19 continue to hit many Seattle families, particularly families of color,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. “Increasing our support for Fresh Bucks will allow families to afford healthy food during these trying times. Investing in programs like Fresh bucks supports families with much-needed food resources while also investing in our economy through partnerships with local grocery stores and farmers markets.”
This year, the City of Seattle has served over 1,000,000 meals through its food assistance programs to shelters, seniors, and young people. As part of its pandemic response, the City launched an emergency grocery voucher program in March to provide immediate food support for families in danger of going hungry due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the program launched, the City has served over 14,000 eligible households with emergency grocery vouchers. The program identified eligible households through existing city programs and in partnership with community-based organizations to reach communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Enrollment in the program is closed.
“Addressing food insecurity was one of my top priorities coming into office — our city should be doing all it can to solve food insecurity and increase access to fresh food, said Seattle Councilmember Dan Strauss. “This expanded funding nearly clears the wait list and complements the work I led supporting Farmers Markets, which are another key pillar to our fresh food access infrastructure.”
Families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic can also visit the Mayor’s COVID-19 Community Resource page for details about additional food security programs and services, including an interactive Food Resource Map that shows the location of food banks, free meals, and student to-go pick-ups.
Sandra LeDuc is a writer and editor based in South Seattle.
Featured image: Fresh apricots and snow peas at Tilth Alliance’s farm, Rainier Beach, Seattle (Photo: Carolyn Bick)