41% of Washingtonians skipping meals due to high food costs, survey finds

At least four in 10 Washingtonians are dealing with high grocery prices by reducing their portion sizes or by skipping meals altogether, according to a new survey by CouponBirds.

“People are generally needing to make really, really hard choices in order to be able to keep their families fed,” Northwest Harvest development director Laura Hamilton said.

Hamilton said parents sometimes skip meals to make sure their children have enough to eat and elderly people are forced to choose between eating dinner and buying life-saving medication or keeping the power on.

According to the survey, the problem is worst in West Virginia, where 75% of people are cutting costs by cutting back on food. It’s least concerning in South Dakota and Wyoming, which are both at just 22%.

In the Pacific Northwest, it’s a problem from a little under half to more than half of the population, with Washington state at 41%, Oregon at 35%.

“We’re actually hearing about some food banks that have had their numbers drop off this summer because people can’t afford to drive to get there,” Hamilton said. “They don’t have the extra gas money to make that trip.”

There are local food banks, nonprofits and Washingtonians across the state doing their best to help food-insecure families, but are also struggling with inflation and not having enough supplies to keep up with the demand.

“Companies don’t have the excess food to donate,” Hamilton said. “We hear from from our food bank partners that they’re struggling to get their food needs met.”

Hamilton said they’re trying to keep up with the demand, but just providing food for hungry people doesn’t fix the root causes of food insecurity, like lack of access to affordable housing, healthcare and a job that pays a living wage.

“If those things are out of alignment, more likely than not, individuals and families are going to have trouble getting food on the table,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said while she understands that most families are struggling in some way with inflation, the best thing they can do to help their community is to donate whatever they can.

“I believe truly that even one extra can of soup is contributing and helping or making a small cash contribution,” Hamilton said. “Whether it’s $1, whether it’s $10, those small bits coming from many people in our communities … We’re going to help each other.”

Northwest harvest is also trying to make a difference in the lives of Washingtonians by expanding operations in Yakima County, with a new food distribution center set to open in December and a free grocery store that should be ready in the spring.

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