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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Guest opinion: Partisanship should not stand in way of hunger relief

Shelley Rotondo And Kristen Rezabek Special to The Spokesman-Review

Washington is the proud home of major and growing businesses, agriculture, technology and aerospace. From wine to cherries, computers to hops, we are a leader nationally and internationally.

Yet Washington is one of only three states where poverty has continued to grow after the end of the recession. Poverty has been especially pervasive in Central and Eastern Washington, with four of the top five most impoverished counties as of 2012.

Calls for divided government at the state and federal levels to compromise around issues of poverty and opportunity have risen to the surface following the recent midterm elections. An October 2014 survey from the Food Research Action Center and Tyson Foods found that 86 percent of voting-age Americans believe that no one in America should go hungry. Perhaps unsurprisingly, two out of five Americans have either experienced hunger in the past year or personally know someone who has. A majority surveyed also believe that it will take a combination of government and private charitable efforts to resolve hunger.

The message could not be clearer. Partisan bickering stands in the way of hunger relief, despite substantial bipartisan support among voters and a personal connection to many Washingtonians.

On Nov. 1, approximately 200,000 households in Washington lost up to $90 in monthly food assistance. The drastic cuts, in some cases making up nearly a quarter of food assistance, are scheduled to continue through December.

SNAP cuts should end in January for Washingtonians in need. The two months of struggle, however, will not go unnoticed. November and December are months of peak demand at food banks, with holiday rushes straining emergency food networks. Families already on the edge may be forced to make troubling decisions between food, rent, nutrition or gas, with the consequences falling hard on children and the elderly.

Northwest Harvest and Nutrition First urge our newly elected and returning members of Congress to strengthen programs like SNAP, WIC and the child nutrition programs that provide healthy meals to children where they live, go to school and play. We urge our state legislators to protect the fragile safety net of programs that help families in need so that financial crises are not barriers to learning for kids in school. We ask you to listen to the voters of our state, standing against hunger across demographic and party lines and recognizing that government programs are instrumental in helping many Washington families get back on their feet. Our organizations join to send out a call to action to support legislation that strengthens food assistance. The healthy future of our community and state depend on you.

Northwest Harvest and Nutrition First are proud to stand against hunger in our community and invite all others to join.

Shelley Rotondo is chief executive officer of Northwest Harvest, which serves 370 food banks and operates a 14,000-square-foot distribution center in Spokane. Kristen Rezabek is executive director of Nutrition First, which provides education and training to ensure young children and families with limited resources have opportunities for better nutrition.
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