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If you’re like me, the arrival of August means enjoying those last few dips in the pool, eating those last bites of summer fruits before they go out of season, and preparing your kids to go back to school. For many, the back-to-school preparation is as routine as the school day itself; backpacks are filled with new pencils and notebooks, fall schedules are posted on the fridge and lunch bags standby waiting to be filled with nutritious foods to fuel minds at work. Unfortunately for some, the reality of obtaining those nutritious foods can become a daunting task. There are over 150,000 families in King County alone receiving basic food benefits. These benefits enable low-income families to make ends meet by providing monthly benefits to buy food. A family of four with a monthly gross income of less than $3,700 per month could receive a monthly benefit of approximately $115 a month – that’s about $4.10 a day! For the entire family!

You may be asking yourself, how can you live on just $4 a day for food? Thanks to the free and reduced priced lunch program at Seattle Public Schools, children whose families meet those income guidelines are allowed to eat breakfast and lunch at school at little to no cost. You can find out more about that program here.

“So what about dinner?” you ask. Enter Leanne Brown, author of Good & Cheap, a cookbook designed for families on a strict food stamp budget with a desire to feed their families healthful and tasty food. Leanne has released the 2nd edition of her cookbook full of beautiful and inexpensive recipes that even the most basic chef can master. The books can be downloaded for free by visiting Leanne’s website. However, it’s important to note that for each copy purchased, a copy is donated to an individual and/or family in need. So buy, buy, buy! If you’re not convinced, just take a look at what our friends over at NPR had to say in this article.

So you’ve got your cookbook and that gleam in your eye, but where, oh where are you supposed to find the ingredients?! Only the freshest, locally grown foods for you, my friends! The end of summer also marks the beginning of Farmers Market season in Washington. Local farmers understand the importance of developing healthy communities and a sustainable local food system, so they work hard each year to bring their organic fare to the residents of this state. To find the Farmers Market in your community, take a look at this state listing. Families who currently receive federal food benefits can shop at their local farmers markets using their SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits thanks to the program Fresh Bucks. Not only does the Fresh Bucks program allow families to use their EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) cards to buy food, every dollar spent is matched by the market up to $10 per day, per market, per cardholder! Using Good & Cheap recipes, one trip to the market could feed a family for a whole week! So while we will soon have to say goodbye to warm, sunny days, dips in the pool and summer fruits, it gives me great comfort to know that the families in my community will be able to enjoy healthful, flavorful meals all year long, and kids throughout the state can go to school happy, healthy and ready to learn! Here’s to a great school year, happy eating!