City of Seattle Invests More than $7 million in Food Access Programs for Older Adults and People Experiencing Homelessness

Human Services Department Will Invest Over $5.4 Million in Food Access Program for Older Adults; Invest $1.8 Million to Provide Meals for People Experiencing Homelessness

SEATTLE (May 13, 2020) – Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today announced that the Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) will invest more than $7 million in assistance to local programs that support food access and nutrition for older adults and people experiencing homelessness throughout Seattle and King County. This funding is made possible by federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and Families First Coronavirus Response Act. These funds provide additional support for a variety of programs, including meal delivery to older adults and meals in shelters serving people experiencing homelessness.

HSD’s Aging and Disability Services will expand existing food delivery programs and shift to a home delivery program model to facilitate appropriate physical distancing and meet older residents where they are. These home deliveries to particularly vulnerable individuals can serve as wellness checks while maintaining physical distance. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity issues that impact some of our most vulnerable residents, including older adults and people experiencing homelessness. At the City, we need to do everything we can to help vulnerable communities access healthy and affordable meals,” said Mayor Durkan. “The incredible agencies the City of Seattle partners with are committed to meeting the food needs of our community members and closing the gaps in food access. I’m grateful for these agencies and their staff for their work to serve some of Seattle’s most vulnerable communities.”

“My work last week at the West Seattle Food Bank distributing food gave me insight to the enormity of the food access challenge during this crisis. I’m so grateful that food banks and free school lunches are helping children and families, but we know that seniors and those experiencing homelessness need more access. This city’s direct investment of $7 million will ensure older adults and our homeless neighbors don’t go hungry during this pandemic,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle & South Park).

“As the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis continues, low-income seniors, unsheltered populations and those who are homebound living in permanent supportive housing are having a hard time affording food or accessing food safely. Our seniors especially are already heavily impacted by the coronavirus, fearing infection while suffering from isolation. They shouldn’t have to worry about having enough to eat. With our community  food banks overstretched for resources, the City is filling the gap by allocating $7 million from the CARES Act directly into food assistance,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide).

The $7 million investment in meal programs for older adults and people experiencing homelessness is appropriated from funds from the recently passed federal CARES Act to directly support the City’s response to COVID-19. 

The funding breakdown is as follows:

Over $5.4 Million in Additional Support for Food Access for Older Adults in Seattle and King County

For many years, HSD Aging and Disability Services division has supported programs that provide food and nutrition access for older people, including community and home-delivered meals. The new federal funds support existing programs and new programs that will help the region respond to emergent needs as the pandemic continues.

Congregate Meal Programs – $1.9 million

Congregate (community) meal programs receive $1.9 million to deliver meals for older people.

Congregate meal programs provide nutritious meals, cooked from scratch, at community sites such as senior centers. With COVID-19, congregate meal programs pivoted to a new service model – pickup, delivery and takeout. CARES Act funding allows programs to meet community needs and cover increased staff and delivery costs.

Home-delivered meals – $1.2 million

Home-delivered meals programs receive $1.2 million to serve more homebound older adults who are unable to prepare their own food.

HSD Aging and Disability Services division contracts with two agencies that deliver meals to homebound older adults unable to prepare food—Sound Generations, which operates Meals on Wheels, and Lifelong, managing the Chicken Soup Brigade program. These programs support older adults throughout King County and offer meals that meet homebound clients’ dietary needs.

“Meals on Wheels in King County experienced a historic surge in new applications and meal ordering since the pandemic began. 38,205 meals were delivered last month, easily the highest total for April in the last 10 years,” explains Adam Porter, Director of Meals on Wheels at Sound Generations. “With the assistance of additional federal funds supporting Meals on Wheels, we have been able to eliminate the pre-pandemic waitlist and forecast that we will not need to have a waitlist for the rest of 2020. All while meeting the increased need of homebound seniors.”

“Lifelong and our food and nutrition program, Chicken Soup Brigade, have witnessed a sharp decrease in donated food, straining our budget as we purchase the majority of supplies for the meals and grocery bags that we deliver to our homebound, medically vulnerable clients. In April we received 8,000 pounds less in donated items versus previous months. With so much pressure on the supply chain, we are struggling to find vendors to dispense the healthy items our clients need to manage their health from the safety of their homes. The additional funds help close the food access gap,” says Caila Nickerson, Senior Program Manager of Chicken Soup Brigade.

Community Choice Guides$886,000

Community Choice Guides augmenting meal and short-term grocery delivery receive $886,000.

Agencies employing Community Choice Guides (housing specialists who serve HSD Aging and Disability Services’ Medicaid long-term care clients) have been able to reassign staff to help deliver food from congregate meal sites. They will soon be able to purchase and deliver groceries for clients who need immediate food support.

Supporting Emergent Needs During COVID-19 – $1.45 million

HSD has reserved $1.3 million to support extended home delivery services, plus $150,000 in flexible funds for culturally-relevant groceries that are not available at food banks and pantries. These options will become available soon to address immediate food needs.

Older people, adults with disabilities, and caregivers in Seattle or King County who have questions about food access or any other resource can call Community Living Connections at 1-844-348-5464. All calls to Community Living Connections are free and confidential.

Meals for People Experiencing Homelessness in Seattle – $1.8 million

OPERATION: Sack Lunch (OSL) and FareStart each receive $910,000 in federal funding to provide meals at shelters for people experiencing homelessness in Seattle. 

“During COVID-19, OSL has increased its meal production to more than 7,500 nutritionally dense, hot meals per day,” explains Beverly Graham, Executive Director of OPERATION: Sack Lunch. “We are proud to use this additional funding to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness and hunger in our community.”

These funds will provide an additional 2,000 meals per day for people experiencing homelessness and are available for up to six months while shelters are responding to COVID-19.

“A critical part of our mission is to nourish communities,” says FareStart Chief Executive Officer Angela Dunleavy Stowell. “Our meals have become a lifeline to people experiencing homelessness, and this funding enables us to meet the growing demand in these tough times.”

The City has also created a comprehensive resource page for residents and small businesses impacted by COVID-19. This page will be updated as more information becomes available.

On May 11, Public Health – Seattle & King County announced a new Local Health Directive instructing residents to wear cloth face coverings in all indoor public settings and outdoor public settings where maintaining six feet of physical distance could be difficult. This effort is critical to the continued work to combat the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. For more information, visit kingcounty.gov/masks.