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Recession drives up hunger in Washington

Tukwila pantry by USDAgov.jpg

The recession has brought a major spike in the number of Washington families who experience hunger, according to data from advocates and federal officials. Hunger has gone up all over the country, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture finds that Washington has fared worse than the country overall.

Between 2008 and 2011, the state went from significantly below then national average to well above it. Over the last three years, an average 15.4 percent of households here have been “food insecure.”

Shelley Rotondo of Northwest Harvest said she’s seeing that firsthand.

“We’ve never had this much pressure on our emergency hunger response system as we’re currently seeing,” Rotondo said.

Northwest Harvest supplies food banks all over Washington, and runs its own in downtown Seattle. Rotondo said it seems like the aftermath of the recession is exhausting whatever resources struggling families have left.

“They used up their unemployment. They’ve used up their savings. Maybe they’ve accessed their retirement early and they’ve used that up as well. And so some folks have held on for the last two, three years, but can no more,” she said.

That’s ensnared not just the very poor, but plenty of working people. Stand around at one of their food banks long enough, Rotondo said, and you’ll see yourself walk through the door.

Gabriel Spitzer is the Host and Senior Producer of Sound Effect, KNKX's "weekly tour of ideas inspired by the place we live." Gabriel was previously KNKX's Science and Health Reporter. He joined KNKX after years covering science, health and the environment at WBEZ in Chicago. There, he created the award-winning mini-show, Clever Apes. Having also lived in Alaska and California, Gabriel feels he’s been closing in on Seattle for some time, and has finally landed on the bullseye.
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