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caption: Volunteers Ken Newman, right, and Caren Shepsky heft a 50-pound bag of rice at the Cherry Street Food Bank, run by Northwest Harvest, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009, near downtown Seattle. Northwest Harvest, a non-profit hunger relief agency, also provides food for over 300 partner programs state-wide. American charities say they have weathered about a 9 percent drop in giving this year and a recent survey show they may see a decrease in year-end generosity.
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Volunteers Ken Newman, right, and Caren Shepsky heft a 50-pound bag of rice at the Cherry Street Food Bank, run by Northwest Harvest, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009, near downtown Seattle. Northwest Harvest, a non-profit hunger relief agency, also provides food for over 300 partner programs state-wide. American charities say they have weathered about a 9 percent drop in giving this year and a recent survey show they may see a decrease in year-end generosity.
Credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Hunger is way up in Washington state. One in four people

One in four people in Washington are going hungry, according to a new report by the hunger relief agency Northwest Harvest. The state’s hunger rate is much higher than originally expected.

Unemployment and poverty are driving the numbers. “When unemployment goes up, food insecurity goes up,” said Thomas Reynolds, CEO of Northwest Harvest. “When poverty rates go up, food insecurity rates go up.”

People of color in particular are deeply affected because they hold jobs that were disrupted by coronavirus.

Before the pandemic, more than 800,000 Washington residents were considered food insecure, said Reynolds. As of May, close to 2 million residents don’t have adequate food.

“Depending on when we peak and how much more unemployment we see, we think that peak number will increase to 2.2 million people during the peak months of food insecurity.”

Even with unemployment benefits, many are struggling to put food on the table. Philanthropic organizations have stepped up. The state’s effort under Washington Food Fund, set a goal of $11 million in April. To date, it has raised just over $4 million.