Emergency food access
As Washington’s communities join in cooperation and sacrifice to help each other and stop the spread of COVID-19, access to many resources and services once considered staples of daily life has been curtailed and, in some cases, completely cut off.
Access to food is critical to help people weather this storm and support the effort to stop the COVID pandemic.
Our state’s efforts to ensure ongoing food security systems remain in place to meet the nutritional needs of all Washingtonians -- including children, seniors and people with low income.
The federal government has lifted many restrictions that may have disqualified some applicants from receiving benefits in the past. This USDA Food and Nutrition Service announcement outlines several of these new allowances made in the coronavirus emergency response. Anyone in need of nutritional support – even those who may have previously been denied – should inquire about benefits.
Many schools are offering meals to children during school closure.
- Any child 18 or younger can receive meals free of charge.
- Adults with disabilities who are enrolled in education programs may also qualify.
In many cases, these meals are being delivered or dropped at off-school locations such as bus stops. Check your local school district webpage to find a meal service location near you.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched an online tool – the “Meals for Kids” Site Finder – to help families find meals for children while schools are closed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Pregnant women, new moms, and children under age 5
Families like yours get healthy food and a lot more through the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC). To find the WIC clinic closest to you, call the Help Me Grow WA Hotline at 1-800-322-2588.
Seniors and people with disabilities may apply for programs that offer home delivery.
- Connect with home-delivery meals and similar services on the Washington Community Living Connections website.
- Or call 1-855-567-0252 for assistance with these services.
- Washington 211 has information on free meals for seniors.
People without shelter or who have low incomes
Food pantries and hunger relief organizations are an essential part of the food supply chain and may remain open and operational during this coronavirus crisis.
- Find information about food pantries in your area on the Washington State Department of Agriculture's food assistance webpage and on the Washington 211 website.
- Washington 211 also provides information on locations that provide free meals, commonly known as "soup kitchens." Be sure to contact the facility before arriving to confirm if and how they are operating.
- Throughout Washington, find a Northwest Harvest partner in your area.
- In Eastern Washington, find a Second Harvest partner in your area.
- In Western Washington, find a Food Lifeline partner in your area.
- Washington Connection offers a fast and easy way for families and individuals to apply for a variety of services such as cash, child care, long-term care, and Medicare Savings Programs. Individuals that are age 65 or older, blind or disabled may also apply for medical assistance.
Basic food benefit cards
Basic food benefit (EBT) cards can be used to buy food and are available for a range of people. U.S. citizens can apply for this benefit on the Basic Food page at the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.
- Note: The federal government suspended a work requirement that applied to some adults during this crisis. However, the federal government does require that you be a U.S. citizen to qualify for this benefit.
Debit-style cards similar to those described above are available to many non-citizens who meet all the other program requirements. You can apply for this benefit with the State Food Assistance Program Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.
Information for food assistance service providers
The Washington State Department of Agriculture provides information for food providers, including:
- Sanitary supplies for operating food banks.
- Volunteer networks to help schedule staffing.
- Sources of food and how to order.
How you can help
Looking to volunteer or donate? Visit the how you can help page for details on what you can do to help with the coronavirus response.