by Elizabeth Turnbull
As talk of inflation and a recession increases, families in South Seattle are continuing to navigate how to feed their families, and food banks in the area have noted an increase in need.
“We are seeing more people coming to our food bank,” Kathy Ulrich, the development director at Rainier Valley Food Bank, told the Emerald. “And you know, we’re seeing folks who have not really needed food assistance before.”
Basic needs are becoming increasingly difficult to meet as the average cost for a gallon of gas in Seattle hit $5.66 in early June, according to a GasBuddy survey, and individuals who are already in financial need are often impacted the most by such increases.
“Sometimes, getting some food support will allow someone to fill their tank with gas right now,” Ulrich said. “Some people are having to make some choices and decisions they haven’t had to make before.”
Nationwide, food-at-home costs have jumped by roughly 12%, making difficult financial decisions a necessity for some families. For example, 72% of individuals earning less than $25,000 a year, according to a National Retail Federation survey, were either using their savings or accruing debt to cover basic needs.
While individuals and families remain constant recipients for local food banks, local public schools are also leaning on food banks to provide food for their students.
Brian Yeager, the food bank coordinator at Byrd Barr Place, reached out to schools in the area to see if there was a need.
“There was an overwhelming ‘Yes,’” Yeager said. “So you know, here are these public schools, coming to food banks to supplement their programs. I’m happy to help them. I mean, it’s fantastic. But it’s something, you know — we are using funds from private donations and grants that we receive to support these programs.”
Carmen Smith, the executive director at White Center Food Bank, says their food bank started to see numbers increase substantially beginning this spring. For example, in May of 2021, it served roughly 6,310 individuals, but in May of 2022, this number jumped to 7,013 — an increase of close to 1,000 individuals.
Smith says she has heard from other food banks in south King County that the growth in need isn’t exclusive to White Center.
Overall, Smith says, the White Center Food Bank has a sufficient food supply to meet the demand. At the same time, she has lent an ear to the families she serves.
“Folks are just sharing with us that everything is more expensive now, and everything’s costing more,” Smith said. “We have a lot of produce and frozen meat. And, you know, some folks are sharing that there’s some things they can’t find in the grocery store. And they’re finding them here at the food bank.”
Elizabeth Turnbull is a journalist with reporting experience in the U.S. and the Middle East. She has a passion for covering human-centric issues and doing so consistently.
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