UW Combined Fund Drive

June 24, 2021

Support Summer Food Programs for Kids

Food fuels our bodies, brains, and souls and gives us the energy to live our lives to the fullest. Hunger, on the other hand, is devastating: it can lead to significant PTSD from worrying about where your next meal will come from, has significant negative impacts on the ability to concentrate, and increases the risk of chronic disease.

In the U.S. and worldwide, people of color, migrants, indigenous populations, and refugees experience food insecurity at twice the rate of the general population. At the root of many of these disparities are poverty, inequity, and social injustice. According to nonprofit Action Against Hunger, one in three children in low- and middle-income countries suffers from chronic malnutrition, while nearly half of all child deaths worldwide are from causes related to undernutrition.

Food insecurity is defined as not having enough food to lead a healthy life. Undernutrition is lack of proper nutrition, caused by not having enough food or not eating enough food containing substances necessary for growth and health. The two are related, and both are a serious problem in Washington and across the country, made exponentially worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hunger in Washington found that roughly 11.5% of the state’s residents, including 1 in 6 kids, are food insecure.

United Way of King County estimates that hunger in our community has tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite social programs in place to help alleviate food insecurity, including SNAP and food banks, many kids rely on school meal programs. 32.1% of students in Seattle Public Schools receive free or reduced lunch – meaning, a lot of kids and teens in Washington face uncertainty about their next meal.

Summer time can put an added strain on low-income families whose children receive free and reduced-price meals during the school year. Historically, in King County, less than 20% of school-aged youth who access free and reduced-price meals during the school year access free meals over the summer.

Seattle-area families can access the district’s summer meal services website for information about meal pickup, which is available between 11am – 1 pm at many locations. Most other school districts in the area are offering summer meals.

Community Program Highlight: United Way’s Summer Meals

Over the past nine years, United Way has sustained significant expansion of the federal Summer Meals program by partnering with organizations to provide meals and staffing support to more than 70 meal sites, as well as leading statewide outreach and marketing for the Summer Meals program.

“For families who rely on school meals during the school year, the federal Summer Meals program is a critical resource,” says Sara Seelmeyer, Food Security Program Manager at the United Way of King County. This year, United Way will expand their Summer Meals programming to meet unprecedented need as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“United Way of King County believes that youth should never face hunger simply because school is no longer in session,” Seelmeyer continues. “That’s why we are excited to continue expanding the Summer Meals program this year to reach 20,000 youth in our community, and ensure that every child has the nutritious food they need to learn, grow, and thrive.”

Across Seattle, children ages 1 through 18 will continue receiving healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals through the summer starting June 21. Initiatives to respond to community need include:

    • Mobilizing 100 Summer HungerCorps Members: HungerCorps are AmeriCorps members who provide critical staffing capacity support at Summer Meals sites, food banks, and other food providers. Many members are bilingual or trilingual, and in total, speak the 10 languages most common to our region.
    • Providing Home Delivery of Meals for Youth: while school districts in our community plan to offer robust Summer Meals programming this year, many low-income households continue to report that they face challenges in accessing their nearest meals sites, such as transportation or scheduling barriers. In partnership with Seattle Housing Authority, King County Housing Authority, and the YMCA of Greater Seattle, United Way will provide home delivery of meals at more than 20 affordable housing sites this summer, reaching more than 2,000 youth per day.
    • Distributing Targeted Outreach: many families aren’t aware of the Summer Meals program, and robust outreach is needed to connect families to their nearest meals site. This year, United Way will mobilize Summer Meals outreach across Washington State, by sending flyers, yard signs, and banners to community partners, canvassing neighborhoods with door hangers, executing a digital advertising strategy, and mailing information directly to low- and moderate-income households.


Consider making a one-time gift or setting up monthly payroll deduction through the UWCFD to one of our member organizations actively responding to this critical need:

United Way of King County (charity code 0316726): Committed to improving our community in lasting ways by ending homelessness, supporting early learning, providing for basic needs and enhancing the ability of people to care for one another.

Northwest Harvest (charity code 0316358): The mission of Northwest Harvest is to provide nutritious food to hungry people statewide in a manner that respects their dignity, while fighting to eliminate hunger.

Feeding America (charity code 0464861): Working to advance change in America by ensuring equitable access to nutritious food for all in partnership with food banks, policymakers, supporters, and the communities served.

No Kid Hungry (charity code 0497068): No Kid Hungry is a national campaign run by Share Our Strength, a nonprofit working to solve problems of hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world. As a child hunger organization, ending childhood hunger is the primary focus. Give to No Kid Hungry through Share Our Strength, a nonprofit leader in the national fight to end childhood hunger by inspiring individual and businesses to share their strengths in innovative ways.

University of Washington Husky Hunger Relief (charity code 1482050): To support hunger relief programs, including the Campus Food Pantry, which address the needs of our UW community students, faculty staff who are experiencing food insecurity and hunger.