One in 10 Washingtonians live without consistent access to affordable, nutritious food, even in times of prosperity.

In these extraordinary days of layoffs and uncertainty, that number is expected to double — 1.6 million friends and neighbors at risk of going hungry. But even as more people rely on the state’s emergency food network for survival, food pantries and food bank distribution centers are managing crises of their own.

Our neighbors, and those who routinely serve them, need help. Groups and individuals, even in isolation themselves, can still support this vital work.

As The Seattle Times has reported, food banks throughout the Puget Sound region have reduced hours or closed their doors temporarily to comply with social distancing and hygiene rules to slow the spread of COVID-19. Behind the scenes, they are navigating supply-chain disruptions and resource shortages while struggling to find new ways to get nutritious food into the hands of vulnerable people who are staying home.

Compounding the situation, as grocery stores fight to keep up with an increase in customer demands, they have less food to donate. That has led to as much as a 70% reduction in contributions of shelf-stable and perishable items from grocery stores across the state, said Jordan Rubin, spokesman for Northwest Harvest, which distributes food to hundreds of food banks and meal programs. Many people who have lost jobs or work hours have never accessed emergency food resources before. They don’t know what to do or where to go for help.

As food-security groups work to navigate these changes and boost capacity, community members can help. Bans on congregating and concerns about potential for contaminated surfaces make this a bad time to hold a food drive. Right now, the most important way to help is through cash donation, Rubin said.

All of us help each other when we follow the stay-home guidelines. But some of us, without resources, need extra help to stay safe and healthy.

HOW TO HELP: Northwest Harvest accepts donations and links to a number of local pantries on its website:

For a list of Seattle-area food banks, visit

For other areas, visit or call 2-1-1.