UW Combined Fund Drive

May 23, 2022

Support Summer Food Programs for Kids

Of the many ongoing consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, one of the most urgent is that more than 50 million people are experiencing food insecurity in the U.S., including millions of children and vulnerable seniors.

In Washington state, those who cannot consistently put food on their tables has more than doubled in the past two years.

Many households that experience food insecurity do not qualify for federal nutrition programs and need to rely on their local food banks/pantries and other hunger relief organizations for support.

Local organizations like Northwest Harvest, Food Lifeline, University District Food Bank, the UW Food Pantry and many partner programs are working tirelessly to meet the rapidly growing demand for emergency food in communities across the state.

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 Washington’s residents, including 1 in 6 kids, are food insecure.

United Way of King County estimates that hunger in our community 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.

Summer meals

Seattle’s Children and Youth Summer Food Service Program, or summer meals program, was established to provide nourishing meals to kids when school is not in session – particularly, the long weeks of summer break.

This summer, sites will operate June 27 through August 24, 2022. Each youth between the ages of 1 – 18 can receive one meal per day to be eaten onsite. Some sites may provide multiple meals at once. There are a variety of locations available for meals, including parks, community centers and schools.

The United Way of King County has a summer meals search tool that displays sponsor, site, and meal information with online mapping tools.

Additional resources

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,” said Sara Seelmeyer, Food Security Program Manager at the United Way of King County. Last year, United Way expanded 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 continued. “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 27. 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.

University District Food Bank (charity code 0316382): For nearly 30 years, we have provided nutritious food to low-income seniors, adults and children living in Northeast Seattle neighborhoods. Each week, about 1,100 different households rely on us to help meet their nutrition needs.

Food Lifeline (charity code 0463199): Feeding people facing hunger today and working to end hunger for tomorrow. Each dollar donated provides enough food for three meals. We help feed hungry people in communities throughout Western Washington.

University of Washington Bothell Husky Pantry Program Fund (charity code 1483077): This fund supports financial donations collected at UW Bothell to maintain the Husky Pantry Food Bank, which provides UW Bothell students facing food insecurity with access to food, 24/7 at no cost.

University of Washington Tacoma Pantry (charity code 1482576): To support The Pantry on the UW Tacoma campus to include the purchase of food, hygiene items and supplies to hand out to students.