Our Work

Sodium Reduction in Seattle and South King County K-12 Schools and Food Banks

Heart disease and stroke are the second and fifth leading causes of death in King County, Washington. Consuming less sodium is one recommendation for reducing hypertension, a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Unfortunately, most people consume much more sodium than dietary guidelines currently recommend even before accounting for particular health conditions. The most significant source(s) of sodium in the food supply is not the salt shaker, but rather processed foods and foods prepared outside the home. Consequently, people may have limited awareness of sodium content or ability to alter it depending on their food source. This is an issue of importance for both the general population and for certain groups experiencing health disparities. People with low incomes, people of color, and people experiencing food insecurity, for example, all experience higher rates of hypertension and are more reliant on certain food sources, such as free- and reduced-price school meals and the emergency food system (e.g., food pantries).

In partnership with Public Health Seattle & King County, University of Washington Center for Public Health Nutrition (CPHN) co-leads and evaluates the Sodium Reduction in Communities initiative in Seattle and South King County, one of eight sites funded through a five year grant of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Sodium Reduction in Communities grant program. Through this initiative, seven school districts, one large food bank distributor, and forty-one food pantries carry out activities to make healthy, lower sodium food available to the people they serve in K-12 and emergency food settings. Work with schools includes providing chef trainings, developing and/or modifying recipes, implementing flavor stations with spices, and convening a regional Learning Network of school nutrition services directors to co-develop recipes and branding/promotional materials. With the support and engagement of a statewide emergency food distributor and local SNAP-Ed program, local food pantries, meal programs, and emergency food coalitions develop and implement nutrition-based policies to guide procurement, distribution and food environment decision-making, and make behavioral economics changes in client service settings to making healthy, lower sodium foods easier and more appealing to select.

CPHN collects data to understand how activities were implemented and the impact of these efforts on the respective food environments, sodium content in the food supply, and consumption of sodium.


US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Jessica Jones-Smith

Project Coordinator

Emilee Quinn

Project Collaborators

Collaborating agencies include:

  • Public Health Seattle and King County
  • Northwest Harvest
  • South King County Food Coalition
  • Seattle Food Committee
  • Washington State University Extension SNAP-Ed
  • Auburn School District
  • Renton School District
  • Seattle Public School

Project Period

September 2016-September 2021

Project Status


Project Contact

Jessica Jones-Smith