At Essentials First (Formerly known as Kits for Peace), our vision is to create a community where:
We work to prevent illness and improve mental health, increase workforce and educational productivity, and strengthen community well-being by providing affordable access to basic hygiene products not currently available to millions of American families.
Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, 1 in 7 households in the state of WA are significantly behind in rent and struggling for food and basic everyday essentials. Unlike supplemental food support that is offered throughout our communities (such as food stamps), there are no government programs that provide affordable personal and household hygiene products to those who are food insecure.
Food banks are inundated with requests for affordable hygiene products but they do not have the capacity to add the sourcing of these products to their workload. Currently, less than 5% of hygiene products are provided through food banks and other community efforts. Also, there is no statewide or national organization set up to consistently provide this support. As a result, two million residents in WA State do not have access to affordable hygiene products.
Essentials First has stepped up to fill this gap. We are growing our mission, beginning in WA State, to ensure the dignity and respect that comes with the ability to have clean kitchens, clothing, and bodies is afforded to all.
Essentials First was founded in 2017 (Formerly known as Kits for Peace) as a 501c3 nonprofit organization under the name, Kits for Peace. The organization has been providing hygiene and warmth kits to several populations including those experiencing homelessness living in shelters and outside. It also expanded its services to support low-income households at risk of homelessness by working with dozens of community providers who serve them. To date, nearly 30,000 kits (about 300,000 hygiene and support items) have been distributed to a growing number of people unable to afford these products in the Puget Sound area.
In 2020, the pandemic exposed an alarming gap of access to hygiene support, especially among low-income households and those experiencing financial instability. After completing a needs assessment, our board of directors voted to grow our mission to provide these items and help close the gap. We are working to establish the necessary relationships to procure millions of hygiene items in bulk to be distributed through a network of food banks and nonprofits in WA State. Currently, we are undertaking a pilot program to understand how best to scale up hygiene distribution to the most underserved populations in our neighbourhoods and the state, utilizing existing food banks.