About Food Assistance

What do you need today?

What is food assistance?

In 2018, one in six Washingtonians (1.15 million people) received food from emergency food providers that were supported with resources from our programs.  Hunger and food insecurity are symptoms of the complex problem of poverty. People skip meals if it means saving money that they can divert to other pain points of thier household budget like paying the rent, utilities bills, or health care. According to the most recent U.S. census data, 1 in 10 people in Washington live in poverty, which is equivalent to $25,750 annually to support a family of four.  It is no surprise then that more people visit food banks and food pantries to stretch limited resources, regardless of whether they meet the definition of poverty. 

Food Assistance serves lower-income individuals and families by providing commodity food, state & federal funding, logisitics services and community outreach to hunger relief providers and tribes across the state.  Through active engagement and strong partnerships, we strengthen the emergency food system, improve access to nutritious and safe foods, and ensure regulatory compliance, while honoring our connections with agriculture. At WSDA, Food Assistance is part of the Food Safety and Consumer Services Division which plays an active role in defending the availability, safety, and integrity of our food system. 

Our advisory committee is part of the Washington Food Coalition and plays a critical role in developing coordinated, responsive, and strategic solutions to the issue of hunger in our state. In 2018, WSDA’s Food Assistance programs provided approximately $23 million worth of state and federal food and funding to support a network of more than 500 food banks, food pantries, meal programs, tribes, and tribal organizations. This year, due to increased federal The Emergency Food Program (TEFAP) funding, paired with an influx of additional commodity foods through the temporary Trade Mitigation Program (TMP), we project an increase to $40 million or more.  
Food banks, food pantries, backpack programs, home delivery, mobile food pantries and voucher programs that participate in the Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) comprise our most comprehensive "snapshot" of Washington State's hunger relief system, and who is relying on it to put food on the table.  Learn more about hunger in Washington by reviewing statewide EFAP annual closeout reports, or learn more about the county-level need for food assistance services and how WSDA contributes each year. 
WSDA offers three state-funded services: the Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP), EFAP Tribal, and the Farm to Food Pantry initiative. We also manage three federal programs: The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), and the temporary Trade Mitigation Program (TMP).  Read on to learn who's eligible for each program, how WSDA invests in hunger relief while strengthening the agricultural community, and how these programs work in tandem to get food to those in need. 
If you have additional questions about our programs, how they work in your community or would like to see more data or reports from previous years to understand how hunger in Washington has changed over time, please contact us. We are happy to answer your questions and help you better understand food assistance programs in our state. The team at Food Assistance sees everyone in our community as a partner in our work to fight hunger and strengthen the hunger relief system.