“We can’t food bank our way out of poverty” is a quote I came by some time ago and I believe it’s correct, though not every food bank employee or volunteer agrees with that statement. It doesn’t mean we aren’t essential. Sadly, food banks meet a critical need for far too many food-insecure households. We can help with one of the symptoms of poverty—hunger—for the day or week of a client’s visit, but we are unlikely to help that household move out of poverty. Ending poverty will be a very long journey that will involve all sectors of society, and will require massive change to many systems.

At our food bank, we are continuing to learn more about the root causes of hunger and poverty. While doing this work, we want to see how we can impact these sources and become educators about both causes and helpful interventions. We are paying increased attention to issues of housing, healthcare, childcare, and race. While there are many tools to help reduce poverty, there are multiple larger barriers in place that keep people from exiting poverty in a lasting way.

Recently, I’ve been particularly excited about Washington’s Paid-Family Leave Law which became available to employees at the start of 2020. Essentially it will provide up to 16 weeks of leave for those wanting to take time off to care for a new infant or other family member in need. Employees will receive up to 90% of their wage or up to $1,000 per week.

Food Insecurity is about more than food; it’s about being able to afford all of one’s basic needs. The more we work toward an equitable society, the less people will rely on food banks. BFB began offering paid parental leave a few years ago and we are proud to have done so. Sure it costs money, but it is also the right thing to do and mirrors what many other countries do. We also pay all of our employees what is considered a living wage in Whatcom County. Being a good employer is one major way we work toward ending poverty and giving people access to the basics. I believe access to food, housing, healthcare, and education are rights that should be available to all—not just the privileged.

This new law has nothing specifically to do with hunger or food banking, but it is one of many interventions that can help keep people from needing a food bank. What policies, programs, or initiatives have you seen that can help reduce or move people from poverty?

Add your name to Food Lifeline's petition to better support hungry Washington children here.

  • Washington State Representative Sharon Shewmake has announced her 2020 legislative priorities. Read about them here and sign up for more updates here.

  • Read Northwest Harvest's legislative agenda for food and nutrition here.

  • Read the Antihunger & Nutrition Coalition of Washington's legislative priorities here.
Hunger Action Day

 February 3 | by appointment
Olympia, WA

During each legislative session, the Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition hosts Hunger Action Day, a lobby day in Olympia that highlights issues facing hungry families in Washington State, and brings their stories and priorities to legislators in the positions to make change that reduces hunger.

Learn more and register here .
Show Up! Speak Up! Community Building at BFB

 February 10 | 3:30-5 pm
@Bellingham Food Bank

We invite anyone who is invested in our food bank to join us for a series of community discussions about topics that affect our clients the most. Topics will be generated by our Client Advisory Board and brought to the public throughout the year.

Speak Up about: Food Access & Social Justice in Bellingham

Catering provided by Haggen Market Street Catering

No RSVP required
Students, faculty and staff at Western Washington University are innovating around food security on campus through the Amazon Catalyst program.

Learn more about the program here.