Food >> Food Archives >> Posted 2012 >> Notes & Sources (2012)

Food: Notes & Sources


Basic Food is Washington State’s nutrition-assistance program that provides food-purchasing benefits to qualified low-income households. Under the auspices of this program, Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services seamlessly administers both the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the State-funded food assistance program for legal immigrants.

Confidence Interval (also known as error bar) is the range of values that includes the true value 95% of the time. If the confidence intervals of two groups do not overlap, the difference between groups is considered statistically significant (meaning that chance or random variation is unlikely to explain the difference).   

Food adequacy/inadequacy is determined by survey responses to questions about running out of food, being able to eat balanced meals, skipping or cutting the size of meals, eating less than people feel they should, or going hungry. These questions are included in the Washington State Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

Food deserts are defined as "… either urban areas lacking access to a supermarket within one mile, or rural areas lacking similar access within 10 miles. Without a convenient and affordable way to buy healthy food, individuals either spend hours traveling or are forced to feed their families significantly less nutritious options, many of which are often more expensive.” Quote from Op Ed by U.S. Reps. Allyson Schwartz & Bob Brady 1/10/2012, in The Inquirer,

Food hardship was defined by the Food Research and Action Center ( as a “yes” answer to the question “Have there been times in the past twelve months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?” 

Food security is defined as “the access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.” Food insecurity refers to “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.” From U.S. Department of Agriculture (2009). Food security in the United States: measuring household food security.

Race/Ethnicity: Federal standards mandate that race and ethnicity (Hispanic origin) are distinct concepts requiring 2 separate questions when collecting data from an individual. "Hispanic origin" is meant to capture the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of an individual (or his/her parents) before arriving in the United States. Persons of Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race. Communities Count's terms for racial/ethnic groups are derived from those used by the U.S Census Bureau in 2010.

  • Communities Count terms:  Hispanic, Non-Hispanic, White Non-Hispanic, Black, American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN), Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (NHPI), White, and Multiple Race (Multiple). Persons of Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race and are included in other racial categories. Racial/ethnic groups are sometimes combined when sample sizes are too small for valid statistical comparisons of more discrete groups. 
  • 2010 Census terms: Hispanic or Latino, Not Hispanic or Latino, White alone (Not Hispanic or Latino),  Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, White, Some Other Race, and Two or More Races. 

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, is a federal nutrition assistance program that provides food-purchasing benefits to qualified low-income households. Washington State’s name for this program is Basic Food, and is administered through the State Department of Social and Health Services.


Technical Notes

Food hardship by race/ethnicity: Data for Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders and American Indians/Alaska Natives are not reported because of the small number of respondents to this question. Rates are not stable when based on very small numbers.

King County regions: The geographic boundaries of the four King County sub-regions (North, Seattle, East, and South) are defined by the aggregation of zip codes.

Language of BRFSS survey: While not statistically significant, our analyses suggest that Hispanics who took the survey in Spanish were more likely to run out of food money than Hispanics who took the survey in English.

Statistical Significance: Unless otherwise noted, any difference mentioned in the text is statistically significant (unlikely to have occurred by chance).

Too few respondents to report:  Survey data with 20 or fewer responses are not reported.

Unable to work: This group is self-reported on a telephone survey. The other choices for this question are: employed for wages, out of work, homemaker, student, or retired. Respondents can also refuse to answer this question.

Notes on Updates & Additional Findings

Updates on Farmers Markets in King County: Map of farmers markets; plus updates on locations, dates and hours of operation, and contact information at Puget Sound Fresh (

Washington State Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), 2010: additional findings:

  • 6% of King County households cut the size of meals or skipped meals in the last year due to lack of money for food.
  • 7% ate less than they felt they should because there wasn’t enough money to buy food.

Data Sources

Basic Food participation:  Data on participation in what is commonly called the "food stamps" program (known as Basic Food in Washington State, and more generally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP]) come from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services Research & Data Analysis,

Farmers market map: King County Agriculture Program

Food bank locations in King County: City of Seattle, Human Services Division, 5/2012. Map created by Public Health-Seattle & King County, Assessment, Policy Development & Evaluation unit, 5/2012. List of Food Banks in King County (address, hours, contact info, etc.): King County Food Banks

Food bank use in King County: Provided by Susan Eichrodt, Washington State Department of Agriculture, Food Assistance Programs.

Food insecurity among King County children: FeedingAmerica,org:

Food insecurity and hunger rankings (state and national): Coleman-Jensen A., Nord M., Andrews, M. & Carlson S., Household Food Security in the United States, 2010, Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, September 2011 and

Food adequacy in King County: (questions on running out of food, eating balanced meals, skipping or cutting the size of meals, eating less than people felt they should, or going hungry): Washington State Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), 2003, 2007, and 2010; 

  • The BRFSS is a random telephone interview survey of non-institutionalized adults ages 18 and older that has been conducted in King County every year since 1987.
  • Starting in 2003, the BRFSS was administered in English and Spanish.
  • The limitations of an English-and-Spanish-only telephone survey include the following: a) people who do not have a land line telephone or who do not speak English or Spanish are excluded and b) people with less education and lower incomes are underrepresented.
  • The sample of people reached in a telephone survey is likely to undercount those in need of more or better food (the homeless, the young, and those unable to afford a telephone).
  • For more information on the BRFSS, go to the CDC’s BRFSS website at

Free or reduced-price meal eligibility: Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Washington State Report Card,, accessed 06/17/2015.

Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program: Public Health-Seattle & King County WIC Program.

Other Sources

Maps of King County covering a wide range of topics can be accessed at  Maps most immediately relevant to Communities Count are under the headings of Community data & demographics, Public health, and Environment & natural resources, but other maps should be useful as well (farmers markets, transit routes, walking and biking routes, parks, traffic counts, etc.).

Quotes: Communities Count interviewed 32 King County parents or guardians raising at least one child younger than 6 years of age. We reached out to communities of color, recent immigrants, and residents with limited English proficiency to achieve a broad range of racial, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity. We interviewed both families with very low household income and those who earned up to median income (about $68,000 for a family of four in 2010). Family structures included single-parent households, couples living in consensual unions, married couples, and extended families.