Greenwood Food Bank Response

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Recently, many residents of District 6 and Seattle have contacted my Office regarding the Greenwood Food Bank, and I wanted to address your concerns. For background, in 2014, the Human Services Department (HSD) for the City of Seattle awarded 26 agencies a total of $3.1 million to provide food and meals to low income individuals and families who are food insecure from 2015-2018. These investments range from food banks, to home delivery meals, and meal site programs.

I am committed to ensuring that our City addresses the needs of people living in poverty. I took the claims of the Greenwood Food Bank very seriously and investigated the issue. I found that the media report around the Greenwood Food Bank was inaccurate. My staff, colleagues and I met with the Human Services Department (HSD) and representatives from Volunteers of America, which sponsors the food bank in question. We learned that Volunteers of America planned on relocating Greenwood Food Bank regardless city funding. The Volunteers of America has relocated their services to Bitterlake and made their consumer base aware of the move before it occurred. The majority of their consumers reside in closer proximity to the new location making travel to and from much easier. I am glad to know that the food bank has relocated to better serve its consumers and ensure access.

I want to share a bit about the process for the funding information from the City.  The Human Services Department (HSD) is responsible for awarding funds to social service agencies who provide services, including to food banks.  As directed by the Mayor, HSD began instituting funding awards through a competitive process to follow a performance-based investment practice. This means organizations and agencies needed to demonstrate their effectiveness to receive funding. Those that do not initially qualify have opportunities to work with HSD to learn about performance-based practices and to better understand the application process. Volunteers of America’s application did not reach the correct criteria for this investment cycle. But, that decision did not mean there was a loss of funding overall.  Rather, the entire amount of $3.1 million to provide meals and food remained and was allocated to fourteen other food banks.

Many of you have also asked why the funds used to acquire the bike share program could not be used towards homelessness services. I want to stress that the funds located in the transportation budget and the federal grant specific to bike share and street projects could not have been allocated for any separate projects. I do appreciate these thoughts and your participation and will continue my work in addressing homelessness.

Food access and other issues of homelessness are best addressed when we look at root causes. I was honored to have my work recently highlighted by a Food Lifeline newsletter in discussing hunger and food access. In the newsletter, I mentioned, “all of these things intersect with hunger, from climate change impacting the food supply to economic inequalities and homelessness limiting access to adequate nutrition.” I believe that by promoting policies that address income inequality, homelessness, and environmental equity, we can simultaneously impact food access.

Thank you again for contacting my office.