As Trump Administration Slashes Food Security Programs, Mayor Durkan Triples Seattle’s Fresh Bucks Program to Serve More Families in Need

Additional $2 million will ensure Fresh Bucks serves 6,000 people in 2020, up from 2,000 in 2019

Seattle (December 12, 2019) – Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today announced that Fresh Bucks, the City’s healthy food program focused on getting more fruits and vegetables into the hands of families with low incomes, is tripling the number of customers enrolled in the coming year. With $2 million in funding in the 2020 budget that was approved by Council, Fresh Bucks will enroll over 6,000 Seattle residents in 2020, up from 2,000 in 2019. Customers enrolled in Fresh Bucks Vouchers receive $40 a month in benefits that can be used like cash to buy fruits and vegetables at participating retailers.

The Mayor’s decision to triple the number of people Fresh Bucks serves comes as the Trump administration issues a final rule which would result in 3.7 million fewer people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits each month, including nearly 1 million students who would lose access to free or reduced lunches. In Seattle, SNAP helps nearly 77,000 residents, or 11% of the city’s population, and SNAP helps 929,000 Washington residents, or 13% of the state population put food on their tables. In April 2020, Mayor Durkan submitted a public comment in opposition to the administration’s changes to SNAP.

“As the federal government refuses to help our most vulnerable communities, Seattle is stepping up to ensure our working families can access the healthy, affordable food they need,” said Mayor Durkan. “Food insecurity disproportionately impacts communities of color and immigrants and refugees, and the Trump administration’s work to dismantle SNAP will undoubtedly exacerbate existing inequities in our country. Tripling the size of Fresh Bucks is an important step, but ultimately, we need the federal government to abandon their arbitrary and cruel changes to SNAP, and actually help working families put food on the table.”

“In light of the federal changes to SNAP benefits even more households will experience food insecurity. Fresh Bucks is a vital program to help people, especially families with young children, have access to fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien (District 6, Northwest Seattle).

Funded by Seattle’s Sweetened Beverage Tax, Fresh Bucks helps Seattle residents access affordable fruits and vegetables. Fresh Bucks originally provided a dollar-for-dollar match on benefits from SNAP, commonly known as food stamps. In 2019, Fresh Bucks expanded program eligibility to serve additional people in need of food benefits. Now, any Seattle resident whose income is at or below 80% Area Median Income is eligible for Fresh Bucks Vouchers, including people who receive SNAP.

A recent study found that 66% of SNAP-participating families reported being food insecure or having limited access to enough food. This suggests a significant rate of food insecurity even among those receiving food stamps.

“Through our nutrition education programs, Casa Latina families have learned about the benefits of a healthy diet, especially for their kids. With Fresh Bucks they are able to include fresh fruits and vegetables in their meals. Sometimes junk food can seem the cheapest, but with Fresh Bucks, our families can include fresh fruits and vegetables in their meal planning without having to sacrifice other economic priorities,” said Marcos Martinez, Executive Director of Casa Latina. “Our Casa Latina members who are experiencing homelessness also appreciate Fresh Bucks because it gives them access to delicious fresh food that they can enjoy, and at Casa Latina our kitchen can store food for them and they can share with other workers.”

“We know that we are able to serve only a fraction of the need out there in the community,” said Jessica Finn Coven, Director of the Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment. “In 2019, we enrolled 2,000 customers in Fresh Bucks Vouchers during our enrollment period and over 3,600 customers were added to a waitlist. The newly approved budget expands access to healthy food at a critical time for families.”

Fresh Bucks Vouchers established a public lottery application which will be available March 2-March 31, 2020. Seattle residents can apply online or over the phone, and the application will be available in 14 languages. The public lottery is complemented by 10 organizations that serve as community-based enrollment navigators to enroll historically underserved communities in Fresh Bucks Vouchers. These organizations provide focused enrollment outreach in communities most impacted by food insecurity and diet-related disease. Fresh Bucks applicants who are enrolled in the program can begin to use their vouchers in June 2020.

To learn more about Fresh Bucks Vouchers visit www.freshbuckseattle.org.