Here in Seattle, we are committed to ending hunger and helping get meals to people who need it. Each year, the City of Seattle spends more than $30 million to prevent and end homelessness, including “emergency food” programs such as meals programs and food banks. We have worked hard to protect funding for these services and programs. Working with Mayor Mike McGinn, we crafted a budget that preserved human services funding. When the federal government cut $1.2 million in funding to human services programs, we quickly found ways to backfill those cuts and maintain our services.
We measure our community by how we serve those in need. The Outdoor Meal Program, operated by OPERATION: Sack Lunch, is currently located on property leased to the City by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) under Interstate 5 at 6th Avenue and Columbia Street, serves more than 3,000 meals a week (Sunday-Saturday) at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and more than 156,000 a year. The program has been serving meals at that location since January 2007. OPERATION: Sack Lunch has provided meals to vulnerable populations in Seattle with dignity and humanity for more than 20 years. Beverly Graham has done excellent work bringing together fourteen partner organizations and volunteers to help feed the hungry, and I am grateful to her for her continued dedication to this work.
However, the current location of the program is not ideal. The City does not have long-term control over the use of the property, and we believed it made sense to look for a place where we could ensure a stable, long-term presence for programs to feed the hungry. That’s why the Seattle Human Services Department began working with OPERATION: Sack Lunch to explore relocating meal service to several other possible locations.
We know it’s important that this move be done correctly, in a way that best serves the hungry, and in a way that honors and respects the work that service providers have been doing to help people in need. We are going to take the time needed to work with OPERATION: Sack Lunch to find an appropriate location. We will relocate the outdoor meal program only when we know that alternative venues are in place to serve the same number of people who currently are served by the outdoor program. The alternative location must also allow meals to be served outside to those who feel uncomfortable coming inside. Our goal is to provide food to those who need it, no matter where they wish to be served.
We remain willing to work with OPERATION: Sack Lunch and the 14 other organizations that provide outdoor meals to find the best way to feed those who are in need.
Dannette R. Smith, Director, Seattle Human Services Department