A Nutritious Road to More Stable, Permanent Housing

March 9, 2023

Thousands of King County residents on the path to housing stability are experiencing lower stress and food-related anxiety and better nutritional health because of the freshly prepared meals that FareStart delivers to their homes week after week.

That’s according to the results of an evaluation of the impact our meal delivery program is having on formerly homeless residents in permanent supportive housing.

In interviews with Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute’s Center for Community Health and Evaluation (CCHE), residents of DESC and Plymouth Housing sites in the Seattle area made it clear how much they’ve grown to rely on FareStart’s meals.

“I need these meals because I have no alternative food sources,” one resident told researchers.

“The knowledge that food will be there for them is emotionally important, they can always rely on FareStart meals,” a PSH staff member corroborated.

Both residents and staff appreciate that FareStart meals come with whole grains, protein, fruits, and vegetables. Whether they sit down to eat together or just chat as they pick up their meal, residents feel a greater sense of social connectedness. Meal distribution times also give staff a chance to check in with residents about ongoing needs, like paperwork and medical appointments. With residents who stay in their rooms a lot, staff deliver meals straight to them. That can ease feelings of isolation for residents while giving staff an opportunity to check in on their health and well-being.

“All of the residents have experienced food insecurity while they were homeless, and having prepared meals is huge in alleviating their fears. It helps them understand their housing situation is safe and permanent,” one PSH staff member said.

When researching similar programs, the study identified the promising potential for broader, long-term benefits, not just for residents but for the community at large. When residents’ overall health and well-being improves, they are likely to experience less chronic pain and better manage any illnesses they might have. With fewer acute health problems, they’ll rely less on emergency rooms and hospitals for medical care, which could reduce overall system costs and improve long-term housing stability.

Another PSH staff member explained the longer term benefits this way: “We have one tenant we’ve been struggling to get food support for as he has difficulty creating new routines, so he has been declining a lot of our food options and is unable to cook for himself. But we always know he’s going to be ok because he takes at least two sandwich bags from every FareStart delivery! We know that no matter what, he is getting one healthy meal every day. It really helps us to have that baseline of support that we can rely on while we work with him to gain more skills and food security.”

Since the start of the pandemic, FareStart has delivered more than 5.5 million meals to over 40 organizations serving youth and adults who are low-income or experiencing homelessness. Nearly half of those meals have gone to residents in supportive housing.

But as federal pandemic food programs end and inflation rises, FareStart’s meal delivery program is in jeopardy. With support from our champions Representative Julia Reed and Senator Noel Frame, we are requesting $2 million from the Washington state legislature in 2023 to continue the program in King County and to expand it to Spokane County, through a partnership with Catholic Charities Eastern Washington.

Please consider adding your voice of support for this critically important program. Click here to sign the letter we’ve written to key budget legislators.

“It’s difficult to under-estimate the impact that these meals have on residents’ well-being. And even more difficult to imagine a world where they don’t exist. Together, we can show lawmakers how much community support there is for meal programs like ours that are giving neighbors in need access to nutritious food,” said FareStart’s Emily Hanning, Director of Operations.

Learn more about our work to bridge the gap between hunger and food security.