SEATTLE — Because of the COVID-19 pandemic people who have never experienced hunger are doing so for the first time. There are more than 2 million people in Washington who don’t have enough to eat. Chris Suh remembers the exact moment, ten years ago, when he couldn’t afford food.
“It’s a trauma, opening your fridge and seeing a just a bottle of water in there. It’s traumatic.”
He shared his secret with a friend, who told him about Washington’s food assistance programs. Chris qualified for food stamps but was embarrassed to use his EBT card.
“The first four or five times using it, I had a Safeway across the street that I went to. I'd make sure the parking lot was empty, go to the Safeway, and then I'd find the register that had no one in line. I'd try to get that done as quickly as possible, and slide that card as quickly as I could.”
But having something to put in that fridge was a step in the right direction.
“Having food then led to me being able to like worry and focus more on finding a job, which then led to me having money, and then I can think about school.”
Chris enrolled at the University of Washington Tacoma and graduated at 30 with a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies. Now he works as a manager at Northwest Harvest, one of the places he relied on for food, where an innovative new food bank works like a market, helping customers overcome the stigma he once felt. This new approach helps customers feel nourished, on all levels.
And because of his personal experience with hunger Chris Suh knows the first step to ending it is to not let it become somebody’s secret.
“Check in on your family and your friends, folks in your community. don't be afraid to talk about hunger and asking folks if they have enough to eat. It's tough to admit that you need help.”
Food bank donations are down and the need is huge right now. If you can help, give cash to the Washington Food Fund. If you need help finding food, find resources at Northwest Harvest's Hunger Response Network.