One in six children in Washington struggle with hunger. A little more than 10 percent of Washington households are food insecure. And this is prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Estimates now show that food insecurity is likely to double, with as many as 2 million Washingtonians missing meals.

One of the most important things we do as a nation is see that children are safe, healthy, and ready to learn. We also want seniors cared for and we want people who are working, but poor, to be able to meet basic needs when times get tough. This all breaks down when people are hungry. Hunger robs people of vitality and choices that many of us take for granted.

As a nation, we can do better.

I’ve joined with people on the front lines of hunger relief to understand the problems they face and to learn what needs to be done to solve them. As a state legislator, I partnered with the Thurston County Food Bank, Food Lifeline, Northwest Harvest, and many others to work to help end hunger in Washington.

I focused my leadership on securing new resources and advancing ideas to improve how Washington fights hunger. I’ve made progress ensuring more equitable access to nutritious food. I sponsored one of the nations’ first and most innovative hunger bills that also helps address climate change. I’ve supported Washington farmers and farm workers and I introduced a proposal to clarify and standardize food labels to improve food safety and encourage food donation.

Now is the time to bring those same successful ideas to the nation. I am eager to work on ending hunger should I be elected to Congress.

Food Waste. According to Food Lifeline, every year nearly “40% of our country’s food ends up in landfills, 80% of which comes from perishable foods like meats, fruits and vegetables, milk, and bread.” Making matters worse, food waste in landfills generates methane, a harmful greenhouse gas which has 25 times the impact on climate change compared to carbon dioxide. As a legislator, I saw the need to reduce food waste while people were hungry and stop adding to climate change with this needless waste. In 2019, I sponsored a bill to put Washington on a path to reduce food waste in half by the year 2030. My Food Waste Reduction Act passed unanimously in the House and Senate and was signed into law. It brings together food system stakeholders and government agencies to implement strategies important to fighting hunger by:

  • More efficiently diverting surplus food to feed hungry individuals and families in need;
  • Improving efficiencies in the food production and distribution system in order to reduce the years of greenhouse gas emissions produced when food becomes trash;
  • Supporting use of inedible food waste for animal feed, energy production, commercial uses, and compost.

Food Bank Capacity. As a state legislator, I saw charities and communities working together to feed people in need. But they often lacked trucks, space, or equipment. I led the effort to create an innovative new grant program for food banks and food pantries, so they could add coolers and freezers or update equipment. All necessary during normal times – now critical infrastructure as the state fights a pandemic. Food banks represent the nation’s strategic stockpile of emergency food. I’ll work in Congress to support food banks twofold. First and foremost, I will work to reduce the burden on the charitable food system by ensuring Americans are paid livable wages. Second, I will make sure the nation’s food bank system is modernized and capable of helping people when the need is there.

School Meals. For food insecure families, schools and school meals are a lifeline. Americans can afford to ensure that no child faces hunger in the classroom. While the National School Lunch Program offers subsidized meals to low income students, this program is administratively burdensome and can needlessly stigmatize children. We can provide universal school meals so every child has the opportunity to be nourished while educators work to enrich their education. Free school meals have shown to reduce behavioral issues in the classroom and can promote equity where socioeconomic and racial disparities exist. As the coronavirus has revealed, schools are also essential for keeping communities connected to food, even when schools are closed. It has also shown that the nation’s Summer Food Service Program needs to be promoted and made more flexible so that kids can have dependable, culturally appropriate meals in the summertime. These meals should be nutritionally balanced based on modern dietetic research, not on the influence of industry lobbying.

SNAP. Formerly, food stamps, SNAP is the “nation’s first line of defense against hunger.” I want it to be the nation’s best line of defense against hunger. The pandemic has clearly increased the number of people who need support to put meals on their tables. It was clear even before COVID-19 that SNAP funding was inadequate for working families earning 130% of poverty. By the middle of the month, most SNAP families had already exhausted the limited monthly benefit. COVID-19 emergency funding expanded the number of people receiving SNAP but did little to address the inadequate per-month rate for each family. I support the current push to increase SNAP benefits by 15% during this health emergency and for the period after until the employment levels return to pre-pandemic levels. I also support innovative solutions to modernize the program and permanently increase benefits including additional incentives to promote consumption of fruits and vegetables produced locally. SNAP feeds people and supports the local economy as SNAP participants purchase food from grocers, farmers, markets and retailers.

I have a proven record of accomplishment on hunger and anti-poverty issues and will take this same approach in Congress.