Fully fund Washington State’s smart response to childhood hunger

A young child makes a peanut butter and Jelly sandwichState Food Assistance (SFA) is a food stamp look-alike program founded by the Washington State legislature and Governor Gary Locke in 1997 to provide continued food assistance to legal, documented immigrants when Congress terminated their eligibility for food stamps. The program has been a tremendous success but is at dire risk.

We need your help TODAY to preserve this important program!

Call the legislative hotline at 1.800.562.6000 or email your reps and senator to ask for full funding for the State Food Assistance Program!

Background
Since 1997, Congress has restored federal food stamps for several categories of immigrants (like refugees and asylees). There are three main groups receiving State Food Assistance in Washington:

  • Immigrants with green cards who are in their first five years of residence in the US.
  • “People Living Under Color of the Law,” a variety of immigration status that allows people to continue to live in the US.
  • Citizens of countries with Compacts of Free Association with the US (Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands) who may live and work in the US but are ineligible for most assistance.

More than 10,000 households received SFA in November 2012. Unfortunately, legislators have repeatedly tried to slash SFA benefits that help thousands of children growing up in immigrant families.

Efforts began in late 2010 to eliminate the program completely. The 2011 and 2012 budgets cut the benefits in half, reducing the average benefit per household from $159.05 to just $78.23. This benefit level is just one-third of the resources needed to be “food secure,” according to the US Department of Agriculture.

A coalition of anti-hunger advocates and allies is asking the Legislature to fully fund SFA. The Children’s Alliance, the Faith Action Network, the Anti-Hunger and Nutrition Coalition, OneAmerica, Northwest Harvest, the Washington Food Coalition and others strongly encourage the 2013 Legislature to restore State Food Assistance benefits to 100% of the food stamp benefits received by more than 1 million Washingtonians. The cost of maintaining SFA benefits at 50% in the next biennium is estimated to be $21 million; the cost of restoring benefits to 100% is an additional $21 million. Proposed changes made in the food stamp program at the federal level by Congress could reduce the cost to the state.

Solid Ground has joined 60 community organizations in supporting the SFA. A letter to the legislature signed by all of the organizations states:

For more than 15 years, Washington has strategically leveraged national resources to make sure that food stamps reach families in need. …

But now our food security network isn’t working like it should. During the recession, Washington legislators slashed State Food Assistance benefits for thousands of children growing up in immigrant families, nearly all of whom are children of color. At a time when an estimated one in four Washington children live in food insecure households, the cut to State Food Assistance deepens racial and economic inequality. …

(H)unger is a roadblock to opportunity. Hungry children can’t learn. The ties between hunger, poor health and learning are well understood. If we continue to send children to school without the fuel they need for academic success, we continue to let the opportunity gap swallow up our future.

As the legislative Special Session gets underway in Olympia today, our representatives and senators need to hear that we support the full funding for the State Food Assistance program. Please call the legislative hotline today at 1.800.562.6000 to leave a message, or email your legislators.

Solid Ground is BIG into…

GiveBIG through the Seattle Foundation on May 15!

GiveBIG through the Seattle Foundation on May 15!

GiveBIG is back! On Wednesday May 15, all donations made to Solid Ground via The Seattle Foundation’s website will be partially matched! This means that YOUR GIFT can have an even bigger impact in moving people out of poverty.

At Solid Ground we are BIG into healthy kids. We believe that education and growth extends beyond the school day. We partner with local schools, agencies and community volunteers to engage kids in experiential learning opportunities throughout the day via our community farms, Apple Corps and Washington Reading Corps programs, and our Cooking Matters nutrition and cooking classes.

When you GiveBIG to Solid Ground, you help feed hungry people, keep people in their homes and get families and individuals experiencing homelessness into stable housing.

So please, GiveBig on Wednesday, May 15 to end poverty in our community. And remember to tell your family, friends and coworkers to GiveBIG to Solid Ground!

We are BIG into food and nutrition!

We are BIG into food and nutrition!

At Solid Ground we are BIG into food and nutrition. We believe that all families should have access to healthy, nutritious food, regardless of where they live or how much they earn. Last year, our Lettuce Link program’s Marra Farm Giving Garden, Seattle Community Farm, Community Fruit Tree Harvest and P-Patch Growing and Giving efforts harvested and donated more than 50,000 pounds of organic produce to 21 local food banks.

REMEMBER: All GiveBIG donations must be made with a credit card, within the 24-hour window of May 15, via Solid Ground’s page on The Seattle Foundation website.

We are BIG into ending homelessness!

We are BIG into ending homelessness!

We work to help families and individuals overcome displacement and abuse, address the issues that led to their experiencing homelessness, develop a strong community support system and secure permanent housing. This year we are expanding our homeless prevention efforts and partnering with Lifelong AIDS Alliance to provide housing stability resources for people with chronic illnesses who face foreclosure. We are completing our Sand Point housing campus by building 54 new homes for formerly homeless families and single men and women.

And don’t forget, a portion of all gifts made to GiveBIG will be matched. Thanks for giving BIG to Solid Ground!

Hunger Action Week 2012: What’s on your plate?

This post was adapted from United Way of King County information about Hunger Action Week, originally posted on the Cooking Matters Seattle blog.

Hunger Action Week 2012: Join the conversation about hungerUnited Way of King County (UWKC) is shining a bright light on hunger, asking everyone to think about their relationship to food: Who has food, who doesn’t, where does your food come from? They’re promoting Hunger Action Week 2012, March 19-24 and encourage us all to sign up to participate! When you do, you’ll learn about ways you can get involved locally and be part of a movement that is helping to assure that everyone in our community can put nourishing food on the table.

How you can help:

What does Hunger Action Week hope to accomplish?
The purpose of Hunger Action Week is to raise awareness around hunger. Most people don’t realize how many people are struggling. For most of us, it’s so easy to forget that many in America don’t know where their next meal will come from – or that many have to choose between having enough food to eat and paying for rent.

The need:
Data from the Adequate Food in King County section of the Communities Count report, released in February 2012:

  • 20% of King County children are food insecure. That means 1 in 5 King County kids are at risk of going hungry.
  • 13% of King County residents – or 249,260 people – are food insecure.
  • 9% of King County households ran out of food in 2010 – up from 6% in 2007.
  • In King County, 49% of Hispanic households with children are food-insecure.
  • 15% of South King County Region residents could not afford balanced meals; 8% went hungry.

And King County food assistance programs show that the need continues to climb:

  • Basic Food (SNAP) caseloads increased by 83% between 2009 and 2011.
  • Seattle food banks have seen a 30% increase in the number of clients coming to them for help. At the same time, they’ve had a 31% decline in donations.
  • WIC enrollment has increased steadily since 2006.

During Hunger Action Week, we want to get people thinking about, talking about, and taking action around hunger – so join the conversation!

Court Stops DSHS from Cutting Food Assistance for Legal Immigrants

(Editor’s note: This information comes straight from Columbia Legal Services, who have taken the lead in challenging WA State DSHS’ attempt to end Basic Food benefits to legal immigrants in the state.)

WA State EBT cardOn January 27, 2011, a federal court stopped DSHS from terminating state-funded, Basic Food benefits to more than 10,000 Washington households who had been told that their state food assistance would end February 1, 2011. The court must still decide whether DSHS can cut the Food Assistance Program for Legal Immigrants in the future.

Following are step-by-step instructions for folks who expected to have their benefits cut:

1. Did you get a letter from DSHS stating your food assistance was being cut because of lack of funding? If so, you should check the balance on your Quest card to make sure you get your February benefits on the day you normally get your food benefits added to your card. The last digit of your Client ID# is the day of the month that DSHS adds food benefits to your Quest card. (If the number is zero, than you get benefits on the 10th of the month.) On this day, call DSHS toll-free at 1.888.328.9271 or visit the local DSHS office.

2. Does DSHS have your citizenship or immigration status correct? You should make sure that DSHS has correct citizenship or immigration status information for each member of your household by calling DSHS or visiting the local DSHS office. DSHS needs this information to see if you qualify for federal food benefits. DSHS will not share this information with immigration authorities.

3. What should you do if you do not get February food benefits or no longer have a Quest card? If you do not get your February food benefits or need a replacement Quest card, ask DSHS for help. Call or visit the local DSHS office. If you need more help, call Columbia Legal Services toll-free at 1.800.260.6260, ext. 207. There is more information on the Columbia Legal Services website.

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