Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Breakfast After the Bell-- A Small Victory for Kids

Guest Blogger: Shawn Paton, Community Investment, Strong Families & Basic Needs, United Way

A bill that United Way’s across the state have advocated for with legislators for a number of years will soon be signed into law! Breakfast after the Bell moves school breakfast service from before school, when many children do not have the opportunity to participate prior to the start of class, to after the start of the school day, so it is available to all kids regardless of how early they arrive at school.

In Pierce County, more than 50,000 students are enrolled in free and reduced-price school meal programs. Children struggling with hunger have more health issues, miss more days of school and may have behavioral issues.  Making sure that these kids have breakfast means children who arrive at school hungry aren’t forced to wait until lunch to eat. Breakfast gives these kids the energy to focus and do better in school.

Many of these children rely on free school breakfast and lunch to provide foundational nutrition during the week, so Breakfast after the Bell is a victory for hungry children! However, these same children are at risk of going hungry on weekends and school breaks when free school meals aren’t available. That is why United Way of Pierce County supports the Power Packs program, providing food packs on weekends and over school breaks for those children most at risk of not having enough food at home.

Despite the economic boom in our region, hunger is a growing issue. 

Our food bank partners report that nearly 70% of households they serve have at least one working adult. Forty percent of their clients are under 18 years of age. 

Food bank visitors report having difficulty making ends meet because of rapidly increasing housing costs, child care costs and more. Some working families make too much to qualify for free and reduced-price meal programs, but because of other household expenses, they are not able to afford school lunches or even to put enough food on the table at the end of the month.

United Way is working in partnership with the Hunger-Free Pierce County Collaborative to fight hunger in our community. Visit to find out how you can get involved! 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Reflections on a Day of Advocacy

Guest Blog by Lindsay Morgan Tracy, Vice President, Community Impact, United Way of Pierce County

On February 1, 2018, a contingency of United Way of Pierce County advocates, descended upon our state’s Capitol in Olympia to talk about legislative priorities and concerns. A group of fifteen staff, friends and board members, spent the day meeting with our legislators or their aides to talk about keys issues that are important to our community.

One of the key themes at our From Poverty to Possibilities event was the importance of being fully engaged in policies and advocacy efforts that impact the stability of Pierce County. Our attendees highlighted the need to assess and review policies that are keeping people poor or even incentivizing them to stay in poverty (a/k/a the Benefit’s Cliff). 

Spending a day on Capitol Hill takes commitment for all who take the time. It is a significant commitment from the business community that allowed their employees to take the day to champion causes important to the greater good of our residents. Special thanks to WSECU, State Farm, Western State Hospital and CHI-Franciscan for allowing your staff to participate in this good work!

As our group divided to conquer our 20 meetings, we received a lot of feedback from our political leaders. While we don’t spend a lot of time in Olympia, this trip reinforced the fact that our work is continuing to be heard by Washington State leadership. 

A few of the key takeaways include:

  • Our legislators love the fact that 2-1-1 is a life changing and often lifesaving program that many aides refer to constituents when they call their representatives/senators and let them know they need help. This was heard repeatedly throughout the day. It’s hard to even imagine how the aides would respond if South Sound 2-1-1 didn’t serve the Pierce, Thurston and Lewis communities.
  • Our Pierce County legislative leaders work well together and they consistently all meet (as Republicans and Democrats) to discuss bipartisan ways to move forward - - this is rare at a statewide level and nationally.
  • Corey Mosesly’s leadership in a bill with Representative Laurie Jinkins continued to get support (HB2730) for business tax credits to reduce cost barriers for adults attending college to further their careers. 
  • Legislators truly enjoyed having kids there to learn about the legislative body of work. In fact, last year, Matt Levi’s daughters were instrumental in advocating for Breakfast After The Bell, which had just passed on January 30! The girls were thrilled and even more impressive—legislators remembered them from last year and continued to encourage them to champion for important causes. 
  • We also learned that our Strong Family legislation was not fully supported, as some legislators desired more accountability in the language of the bills. They were very articulate with their reasoning and we appreciated their time to discuss specifics with us so we could learn what we could do to ensure movement.

The day ended with a reception at the Governor’s Mansion where our President & CEO, Dona Ponepinto served as the emcee. After Governor Jay Inslee’s address, one of our younger delegates (yes, my son, Eban) got a picture with him so he could write his very own blog for school about his Day on the Hill with United Way of Pierce County.

Learn more about our 2018 State Policy Agenda or visit to stay abreast with current issues.  Check out additional photos from the day!