Hunger Action Day Focuses on Reversing Food Assistance Cuts and Addressing Unmet Needs

By Laura Shepard, FamilyWorks Volunteer

Jake Weber, ED and Mike Cox, FB Manager at the Capitol Building

Jake Weber, ED and Mike Cox, FB Manager at the Capitol Building

Jake Weber, FamilyWorks Executive Director and FamilyWorks Food Bank Manager Mike Cox attended the 2015 Hunger Action Day on Monday in Olympia with members of other anti-hunger organizations to lobby legislators or their staff members to support anti-hunger programs and legislation.

There was a great lineup of advocates from the 37th legislative district who highlighted the fact that economic recovery is not translating instantly into better food security for Washington Families.

One of those speakers was a 4th  grade girl representing kids all around the state who spoke on behalf of the Breakfast after the Bell bill, which would provide free breakfast to all students. She was soft spoken but confident.

“The legislators really paid attention to her- she made the point that it is hard to learn when one is hungry in school,” said Mike.

“She is a hunger advocate as we all should be,” added Jake.

Mike Cox was one of the speakers and he shared that 1 in 5 Washington Residents use food banks, and over 1/2 of participants served are either elderly or children. Mike pointed out that, alarmingly, in 2014 food bank visits actually rose with the highest growth in new participants coming from the elderly and children.

The main cause for the current upswing is no mystery – cuts in federal and state food assistance programs have made food banks more critical to more people than ever. The improving economy is cited as justification for quickly cutting federal and state food assistance programs, however it takes time for an improving economy to translate to food security for a household, and a recent upswing in unemployment has new participants applying to all forms of national, state and local food assistance options.

As major food assistance programs cut funding, food banks are stepping in to try and fill the gap. However, that gap is a big one. Food banks in Washington are struggling to meet growing demands, and this is reflected in the drop in total volume of food available to each participant on a per visit basis.

You can help!

  • Donate Funds – see how your donation of cash, goods or services can make a huge difference
  • VolunteerGive your time for food drives, sorting, driving or administrative functions
  • Advocate – Click here to find out how you can contact WA legislators and support legislation that helps people who are hungry
  • Tell your story – Legislators need to understand the full impact of being underemployed or being homebound and the frustration of not being able to get fresh greens in months

Thank you!

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A Heartfelt Thank You to St. Benedict’s from Will Lewis, FamilyWorks Board Member

This past Sunday, I was given an opportunity to talk about FamilyWorks to the congregation at St. Benedict’s. Deacon Roy Harrington and others in the parish have partnered with us over the last two years and are focusing on the issues of hunger in our community. I was able to thank them for their continuing support and gave them an overview of how their donations are being used and their impact maximized at FamilyWorks.

will lewis blog post pic

FamilyWorks Board Member Will Lewis

St. Benedict’s parish is exactly the kind of community partner that FamilyWorks looks for and appreciates. The parish and school have a strong sense of social justice. They have been a continual presence in our neighborhood since the church was founded by Benedictine monks in 1906. They are eager to make a difference in our community.

Thank you, St. Benedict’s. You are a leader among all those who make Wallingford a more compassionate community.

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Reading Rocks!

boy readingWe’re starting to make plans for Reading Rocks, our annual literacy event at FamilyWorks. The event will be April 16 and features a special librarian visitor, fun literacy games and activities, and of course, lots of books! We give away books to event attendees ranging from infants to high schoolers.

You can help FamilyWorks make this event a success in the following ways:

Donate books. FamilyWorks accepts children’s books year-round, but we would love to have lots of books to give away for Reading Rocks! We’ll gladly accept new or gently used books. We would especially love children’s books in Spanish. You can drop off books Mondays 9:30-12, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays 9:30-5, and Fridays 9:30-3.

Volunteer. If you are a reading lover and excited to get to know your community, we need help between 1:30 & 5 on Thursday April 16. Volunteers will help facilitate the activities and chat with people at Reading Rocks. All activities and materials will be provided, but if you have a great idea for an easy, affordable activity that you’re excited to facilitate, let us know & we’ll try to make it work. Please click HERE to volunteer with Reading Rocks.

Attend. If you are looking for something to do during Seattle Public School’s spring break with your child, come join us 2:30-4:30 on Thursday April 16.

Thanks for helping FamilyWorks help spread the joy of reading!

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A Long-time FamilyWorks Volunteer Shares Her Story

18.5 years ago, Shelly Sundberg was looking for a place to volunteer while her children were small. She discovered FamilyWorks and when her children were both in elementary school, they started volunteering with their mother.  Now her kids are 22 and 24 and they still come back every year to volunteer with friends and family on the day after Christmas in the food bank.

Sundberg, who has a demanding job at the Gates Foundation working as a Nutrition Senior Program Officer finds volunteering at FamilyWorks a great change of pace from her hectic day job. She travels every month for about 1.5 weeks, often to multiple destinations.  This past year she traveled to 20 different destinations! But she always manages to volunteer at the food bank when she is in town.

“They call me the closer,” she laughs.

And that’s because she usually shows up after work, towards the end of the food bank hours, and jumps in to help the staff clean up and close down.

She’s been involved in so many ways at FamilyWorks. She was on the board for several years and was even the President back in 2002. For a few years she delivered food to some people who lived in between the Fremont and Wallingford neighborhoods. This was incredibly eye-opening for her and reinforced the reality that hunger was an invisible problem and yet it existed right in her own neighborhood.

Shelly and Jake

Shelly and Jake

At some point, around 15 years ago, Sundberg decided she wanted to give the food bank staff a day off around the Christmas holidays.  She brought her family and friends to run the food bank on a day when it was open to participants and has been doing it ever since.

“I wanted my kids to see more of just their own lives and I believe it is important to give back.”

And it’s a big crowd of helpers:  Sundberg’s two children, her sisters and their children, four cousins, and a handful of friends. All in all, about 15 people show up at the food bank ready to make a difference.

Some of Shelly's family and friends

Some of Shelly’s family and friends

Starting kids early in community service has an impact in their later years: Sundberg’s daughter regularly volunteers in the community and Sundberg believes those early years at the food bank really influenced her.

Being at the food bank was an incredible time of learning for her kids, she said.  They witnessed situations at the food bank that created opportunities for discussion at home about some difficult topics.

As a volunteer, Sundberg was often the first point of contact for some of the participants. She recalled that people came to the food bank for all kinds of reasons and being there often brought up feelings for them.  Sundberg remembered a woman who was a teacher, saying angrily, “I shouldn’t be here– I am not like the rest of these people.”

“The community is very diverse and full of all sorts of people.  We need to be sensitive to where people are at in their lives,” she said.

Sundberg said that when she sees a participant who has not been there for a long time, she knows they are really struggling.

“I feel a tug in my heart,” she said.

Do you have a story about a volunteer experience you’ve had at FamilyWorks? Tell us about it! Email Elizabeth Ralston at

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KCHA Section 8 Waitlist to Open January 28th!

Hi Everyone,

The King County Housing Authority is opening up their section 8 waiting list. This is not a guarantee of housing, but it puts eligible people into a lottery to receive one of 2500 spots on the waiting list.

“Section 8 vouchers help people with low incomes rent homes on the private market. With a voucher, you pay at least 28 percent, but not more than 40 percent (in the first year), of your household income for rent and utilities. KCHA pays the difference between your portion of the rent and the amount your landlord requests.

If you qualify for a voucher, you can use it to rent from any landlord in King County willing to take part in the program. In some cases you may also use it to rent in incorporated Seattle or Renton, or outside of the county.”

Last time they opened up the list, over 25,000 people applied. This was several years ago.

Applications can be submitted between: 1/28/15-2/10/15

They can be done online or in person or by mail. If you would like help applying you can speak with one of our Family Advocates.

You can also read more about it here:


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Thank you to Pecado Bueno, Tangletown String Band and Attendees !!!!

Thank you to Pecado Bueno, Tangletown String Band and all of our generous customers for making it a special night! We raised over $1500, (over 900 pounds of food) to help nourish our customers at the foodbank.

The music and camaraderie, all in a spirit of giving, made for a wonderful atmosphere and a great way to celebrate MLK Day by helping out the community.

Thanks to all!!!

Pecado Bueno

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by | January 12, 2015 · 3:48 pm

Launching the PowerPack Program

backpack imageImagine going to school hungry and trying to pay attention in the classroom. Your stomach is growling and you simply haven’t consumed enough calories to keep yourself awake.

It’s a good thing we have the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs which give children who are low-income free or reduced-priced meals. This certainly helps with combating hunger at school.

But there is another problem: kids leave school on Friday afternoon not knowing if they will have a real meal over the weekend before Monday rolls around. This can contribute to stress and anxiety for these kids and makes it hard for them to arrive at school ready to learn on Monday.

Fortunately, we have developed a partnership with BF Day and Hamilton schools to remedy this problem. Every Friday throughout the school year, kids who qualify for those reduced-priced meals receive a backpack or more aptly named, a “PowerPack”, filled to the brim with nutritious foods to carry them through the weekend.

Each PowerPack aims to have enough healthy food for four balanced meals plus healthy snacks. They do not require refrigeration, are easy to prepare, and are targeted to kids’ tastes. Some examples of foods in the Powerpacks include:

-individual sizes of juice
– shelf-stable milk
– cereal
– fruit cups
– individual meals (mac & cheese, spaghetti & meatballs)
– soups
– granola bars

The food comes from food drives, donations, and purchases from grocery stores. Backpacks are delivered by school representatives every Wednesday and are filled by our food bank volunteers. They are picked up the next day and distributed at the schools in a respectful and discreet manner to protect students’ anonymity.

Mike Cox, FamilyWorks food bank manager, who is coordinating this program says, “We are fostering our children’s health by reducing stress due to food insecurity and we are putting them on a path to a healthier future.”

If you are interested in more information or want to help, please contact Joey Ashenbrenner, Development and Resource Manager at or 206-694-6725.

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