Food crisis for seniors?

Concerns about hunger in King County have primarily focused on families with children.  Since the Great Recession, however, the need for food assistance among King County seniors has increased dramatically.

Food bank visits by seniors rose as visits by younger residents declined.

In 2016, for example, adult age 55 and older accounted for almost 1 in 3 food bank visits, up from 1 in 5 in 2010.  In the time period, the number of food bank visits decreased for all age groups except seniors, for whom the numbers of both new and returning clients increased.

The jump in use of food banks among King County seniors was paralleled by an increase in participation in Washington’s Basic Food program (formerly known as food stamps), which grew from 17,931 King County residents age 65+ in 2010 (9% of the 65+ population) to 28,426 (12%) in 2016.

Basic Food participation among seniors has increased in all major King County cities.

Increases have been especially steep in Tukwila, where 30% of seniors age 65+ participated in Basic Food in 2016.  Sharp increases have also occurred in the South Region cities of Kent, Seatac, Federal Way, Renton, Burien, and Auburn, with participation rates ranging from 15% to 22%.   All major cities in King County have experienced participation increases among seniors.  For other age groups, use of Basic Food peaked between 2012 and 2013 and has declined thereafter.

This trend isn’t just about food.  Steep increases in the cost of living in the Puget Sound region have exacerbated our homelessness problem, and can be difficult to afford on a fixed income.   It’s easy to understand why seniors might go without food or medication to keep a roof over their heads.  Even in times of economic expansion, food benefits may become increasingly important for the older members of our communities.

For more information, see Communities Count data on Basic Food, food hardship, and food bank trends, plus a link to an interactive map of food bank locations.

Seattle Jobs Initiative leads national food-stamps-to-jobs center

The US Department of Agriculture has selected the Seattle Jobs Initiative to create and begin operating the nation’s first Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment and Training “Center of Excellence.” Partnering with the federal Food and Nutrition Service, the Center will help 10 states (as yet unnamed) to build on Seattle Jobs Initiative’s experience in providing education and job training to SNAP participants.

According to KPLU.org, Seattle Jobs Initiative helped Washington state develop a job training program that linked more than 10,000 people to training and apprenticeships in 2013 and 2014. The heart of the new Center will be a digital platform that will enable states to share information, ideas, and tools that help people move to financial independence.

Communities Count’s recently updated food indicators show that, while the King County economy may be booming, the need for food assistance has not declined since the recession.  Not surprisingly, food hardship (running out of food and not having money to buy more) is strongly linked to unemployment.