TACOMA, Wash. - Ever since the pandemic hit, more and more families across Washington are feeling the pinch of a struggling economy. And more than ever, families are growing increasingly worried about food insecurity.
That means food banks are also struggling to meet the need as the number of new clients is expected to grow.
Industry leaders say the crisis never stopped and has only grown since the spring.
One food bank CEO said by the end of this year they expect 1 in 5 Washingtonians will need help putting food on the table.
“I have a little child at 8-years-old,” said Bradley Barksdale. “This really helps me.”
The Star rec enter in South Tacoma has transformed into a lifeline for families.
“Let’s face it, there’s a shroud over everybody out there now,” said Barksdale.
Nourish Pierce County food bank hands out thousands of boxes of meals and lately most of their clients are band new.
“The numbers are way up,” said Claire Bunker. “In June and May alone, we served enough for 1 million meals which is a 50% increase from last year.”
“Unfortunately, the pandemic more or less turned our food security system on its head,” said Derek Sandison, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture.
Last week food banks from across the state joined state officials to highlight the growing need.
“We anticipate seeing elevated need across the emergency food system for months if not years to come,” said Katie Rains from WSDA.
“We can’t do what we do without volunteers,” said Bunker.
It’s on the streets where food banks see the need growing fastest.
Volunteers at Nourish want to remind hungry families everywhere there is no shame reaching out for a little help in a time of need.
“I’m going to supplement my income,” said Barksdale. “I don’t have any problems coming up and get some food.”
State officials say 2 million people in our state each month are being fed by food bank and other assistance programs.
Financial donations to the Washington Food Fund has reached $12 million so far.
Sandison says Cares Act funding is dwindling and state and federal lawmakers will have to step up to make sure food gets to families most in need.