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Seattle Nonprofit Alleviates Hunger with Funding from Sugary Drink Tax

A group of kids hold vegetables
Photo courtesy of  http://www.tilthalliance.org/

Note: This story was originally published by Voices for Healthy Kids.

Seattle is now in its fourth year of taxing distributors on the sale of sugary drinks, at just under two cents per ounce. This tax is then often passed onto consumers through a slight increase in sales price, and those pennies have added up to tens of millions of dollars.

The goal of the tax was to expand programming that increases access to healthy food and to support early youth health, development and readiness for school. As staff at Tilth Alliance, we have been able to see a direct, positive and lasting impact in the community.

Tilth Alliance is one of the many non-profit and community-based organizations that receives funding through the City of Seattle and sugary drink tax revenue. We invest the funding we receive into our nutrition programs so that all Seattleites, regardless of their income or resources, have access to healthy food. That’s important year-round, but as we close out the month of March – National Nutrition Month – we thought it important to share our success with others who may consider a sugary drink tax to support health and wellness programs in their own communities.

This is our fourth year receiving sugary drink tax funding to support our Good Food Bag program. In this time, we’ve delivered over 60,000 bags of healthy fruits and vegetables all across south Seattle through partners like Seattle Public Preschools, senior centers, community centers and low-income housing communities. Our impact with Good Food Bags is three-fold: we increase access to fruits and vegetables for households on a budget, we cultivate relationships between urban consumers and small local farms, and we boost the local food economy by routing most of our produce purchases through Washington-based distributors and by purchasing directly from farmers.

In 2020, we expanded these food access and local food economy benefits by launching a weekly pay-what-you can farm stand at Rainier Beach Urban Farm & Wetlands. Here, we sell both produce grown on our farm, as well as produce and agricultural products from other small local farmers and producers. This “full diet” farm stand offers an array of fruits, vegetables, herbs, dairy, meats, pantry goods and even fresh-cut flowers.

We ensure affordability by offering a $20 produce discount, where anyone who asks can receive up to $20 in free fruits and vegetables per visit. We also take Fresh Bucks and participate in the state’s 50% Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) match program. By participating in these programs and offering our discount, a shopper using EBT can pay $10 to take home $40 worth of fresh, local produce. 

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