Too many households in the Puget Sound struggle to put food on the table, relying on food banks and meal programs. By addressing food insecurity, we can help improve wellness and cardiovascular health in our community. An overall healthy dietary pattern is one of the keys to ideal cardiovascular health, and eating healthy meals is easier when families can afford nutritious foods such as fresh produce.
Did You Know?
- During the pandemic, food insecurity has been experienced by 30% of WA households and of those, 59% had children. (WAFOOD Survey, June-July 2020)
- Close to one million people in Washington receive SNAP (food assistance). Nearly 2/3 of all them are children, elderly and people with disabilities.
- 268,000 kids in Puget Sound are eligible for free or reduced lunch.
Making An Impact
Our work to improve food security and access to healthy foods include:
Three Meals A Day for Kids
Having a longer, healthier life is greatly impacted by health during the early years. As such, a key focus of the AHA is increasing youth access to three nutritious meals a day by providing capacity building opportunities for schools and other youth serving organizations. Our Three Meals a Day project is helping to bridge the hunger gap by working collaboratively with schools and community partners to expand food access by increasing adoption and effective implementation of the At-Risk After School Meals program.
Some ways we are overcoming barriers to meals include:
- Diving deeper with a subset of sites to provide technical assistance, catalyst funds, and community resources to overcome barriers to serving meals to kids. For example, one school district partner will retrofit a vehicle to deliver school meals, including dinner, complete with nutrition education information on board.
- Developing and sharing health curriculum to mitigate the lack of programming barrier for dinner programs.
- Hosting family meal events that provide immediate food resources and education tools to high-need families.
Nutrition Insecurity Screening
Our collaboration with Puget Sound organizations is working to identify those who need food and nutrition resources and provide referrals to food sources. Learn more
Food to Those Who Need It
We’re working with clinics to support fruit and vegetable prescription programs and replicating the model in community settings. Through strong coalition partnerships, we mobilize to meet the needs of those that are most vulnerable. For example, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic we worked with Food Innovation Network (link opens in new window)(link opens in new window)to provide hot meals to refugees and immigrants in South King County coupled with relevant health education.
Healthy Food Guidelines in Childcare
Childcare settings are an important environment for forming good health behaviors, attitudes and habits around children's dietary intake, physical activity, and energy balance. Together with our partners, the American Heart Association advocated for healthier nutrition guidelines for family home and center-based childcare providers, including the promotion of water and unflavored milk, increased fruits and vegetables in snacks, and support for breastfeeding mothers.
WA Fruit & Vegetable Incentive Program
Thanks in part to support from organizations like the American Heart Association, the State Legislature in 2018 made an important first-ever investment in the Fruit and Vegetable Incentive Program(link opens in new window)(link opens in new window). This program provides greater access to healthy fruits and vegetables for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants. When shopping at farmers’ markets and select retailers, SNAP participants can double their purchasing power for fruits and vegetables.
Seattle Sugary Beverage Tax
Sugary drinks are the number one source of added sugars in the American diet. People who consumer a greater percentage of their calories from added sugars are at a significantly higher risk of dying from heart disease. Sugary drinks taxes are proven to help reduce the consumption of sugary drinks, such as soda and sweetened iced teas. Now that the tax is in place, we’re one of the community organizations making sure that revenue from the tax is funding food access programs in the city. In 2018, these programs served 45,000 children and adults. Here’s how some of the tax revenue is being used:
- Vouchers for families to help purchase food and household goods during the coronavirus pandemic(link opens in new window)(link opens in new window)
- Fresh Bucks Seattle(link opens in new window)(link opens in new window) expansion, helping more households on a tight budget afford fruits and vegetables
- Community-based nutrition education and meal programs
- Birth-to-3 childcare provider support
- Home visiting that support child health and development.
We need advocates(link opens in new window)(link opens in new window) for this work as well as individuals and organizations that we can work alongside for a healthier food environment. If you’d like to join with us to ensure three healthy meals a day for kids or to bring more fruits and vegetables to the tables of those who need it, contact us to discuss how we can collaborate.