Posted on May 28, 2013 by Mike Buchman
Editor’s note: Michelle Bates-Benetua, Lettuce Link Program Manager, announced that she will be moving on from Lettuce Link. Here are her words:
Recently, on one of those delicious sunny May days, I watched a bee nestling into an overwintered kale flower and thought about Lettuce Link. This July will mark my ninth year as the program manager, and it truly has been one of the most rewarding jobs I have held.
At my core, I am deeply connected and committed to our program and goals and have loved working with so many wonderful people with such high integrity and passion for social justice!
When I first started, there were two of us on staff. We were both technically part time and only stopped running in the dead of winter when we collapsed and returned to our families worn out and exhausted.
Michelle (center) with her daughter (r) and staff member Amelia Swinton (l) at the Seattle Community Farm adjacent to Rainier Vista
Now there are seven of us. We have a new urban farm and have more than doubled the number of giving gardens we work with, classes we teach and volunteers we coordinate. We are intentional in our approach and we have a vibrant community of fantastic volunteers that we connect with in many ways throughout the year. We are still busy during the growing season, but we now have much more in reserve for the other parts of our lives.
The interest in food justice and urban agriculture has grown tremendously during my tenure, and the energy continues to build! I’m excited to see what the future holds for Lettuce Link.
Or, perhaps more accurately, I’m excited to see what Lettuce Link will bring to our common and collective futures. Everyone has a right to high-quality food, health and well-being. How will Lettuce Link play a role in supporting and advocating for these rights?
Which brings me back to the bee. It lingered on that one flower just long enough and then knew it was time to fly on to the next. I have given considerably to and received significantly from my time with Lettuce Link. But now it is time for me to move on, allowing a fresh perspective and new energy to infuse Lettuce Link.
I will step aside in early August and hope to see many of you before then. If not, you may see me around Seattle. I plan to stay connected to food gardens and the people who love them.
The job posting is on the Solid Ground website. Please share it widely.
Filed under: Food, My Story | Tagged: food justice, food security, Lettuce Link, Marra Farm, Michelle Bates-Benetua | Leave a Comment »
Posted on May 22, 2013 by Mike Buchman
Here’s a breaking news update on the Senate Farm Bill and the latest message (from the Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition) to deliver to our Senators. Please pick up a phone to call Senators Cantwell and Murray.
Please share this information with your networks:
Farm Bill Process
The Senate began their debate of amendments to the Farm Bill yesterday morning. Unfortunately, they missed their biggest and best opportunity to help hungry families and seniors by rejecting the Gillibrand amendment that would have eliminated the $4.1 billion cut to SNAP. Senator Murray co-sponsored the amendment and Senator Cantwell voted for the amendment. But in the end, the amendment failed to get 50 votes on the Senate floor, ultimately defeated by a vote of 26 yeas to 70 nays.
If there’s a bright side to this, the Senate also defeated a number of even more damaging amendments proposed by Senator Roberts that would have tried to instill many of the cuts proposed in the House Bill, including an amendment that would have greatly restricted Categorical Eligibility and eliminated Heat and Eat entirely.
Additionally, Senator Brown has introduced an amendment that will be debated on the floor that would add $10 million to the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program as well as add funds to other programs that help farmers markets and increase access to nutritious, locally sourced produce. This is an effort that we support since the Senior FMNP helps low-income seniors have access to the fresh produce that they need to stay healthy in body and mind, but $10 million will be a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the cut to SNAP — our first-line defense against hunger.
Even if this amendment is added to the bill, the Senate will be voting on a final package as soon as tonight, or possibly tomorrow morning, that will cut SNAP by over $4 billion — a cut that will take $90 per month out of the SNAP benefits for 232,000 households in Washington.
Tell Senators: Support the Brown Amendment but Vote NO on the Final Farm Bill
Call Senator Cantwell and Senator Murray now and ask them to support the Brown amendment. Let them know that we support adding funding to the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, because if the cuts to SNAP proposed in this Farm Bill take effect, then we need to make sure that seniors have all the assistance they can get to have access to nutritious food that they can’t otherwise afford on a fixed income.
We need this amendment to get the final Farm Bill package in the best shape in can be should it pass the rest of the Senate, but in the end, we still need our Senators to vote NO to the final Farm Bill package, because the proposed cuts to SNAP are unconscionable. No Farm Bill this year is better than living with the consequences of a Farm Bill that slashes SNAP and as a result, increases poverty for hungry families with children and seniors. The Senate can always go back to the drawing board and save their yes vote for a Farm Bill that does not make unconscionable cuts to SNAP.
Senator Murray: 1.866.481.9186
Senator Cantwell: 184.108.40.20641
• Vote YES on the Brown amendment to increase funding for Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.
• Even if that amendment passes, vote NO on the final Farm Bill because of the unconscionable cut to SNAP — our first line of defense against hunger.
Filed under: Advocacy, Food | Tagged: Farm Bill, Food, food justice, gardening, grassroots politics, Lettuce Link, Marra Farm, sustainable agriculture | Leave a Comment »
Posted on May 13, 2013 by Mike Buchman
State Food Assistance (SFA) is a food stamp look-alike program founded by the Washington State legislature and Governor Gary Locke in 1997 to provide continued food assistance to legal, documented immigrants when Congress terminated their eligibility for food stamps. The program has been a tremendous success but is at dire risk.
We need your help TODAY to preserve this important program!
Call the legislative hotline at 1.800.562.6000 or email your reps and senator to ask for full funding for the State Food Assistance Program!
Since 1997, Congress has restored federal food stamps for several categories of immigrants (like refugees and asylees). There are three main groups receiving State Food Assistance in Washington:
- Immigrants with green cards who are in their first five years of residence in the US.
- “People Living Under Color of the Law,” a variety of immigration status that allows people to continue to live in the US.
- Citizens of countries with Compacts of Free Association with the US (Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands) who may live and work in the US but are ineligible for most assistance.
More than 10,000 households received SFA in November 2012. Unfortunately, legislators have repeatedly tried to slash SFA benefits that help thousands of children growing up in immigrant families.
Efforts began in late 2010 to eliminate the program completely. The 2011 and 2012 budgets cut the benefits in half, reducing the average benefit per household from $159.05 to just $78.23. This benefit level is just one-third of the resources needed to be “food secure,” according to the US Department of Agriculture.
A coalition of anti-hunger advocates and allies is asking the Legislature to fully fund SFA. The Children’s Alliance, the Faith Action Network, the Anti-Hunger and Nutrition Coalition, OneAmerica, Northwest Harvest, the Washington Food Coalition and others strongly encourage the 2013 Legislature to restore State Food Assistance benefits to 100% of the food stamp benefits received by more than 1 million Washingtonians. The cost of maintaining SFA benefits at 50% in the next biennium is estimated to be $21 million; the cost of restoring benefits to 100% is an additional $21 million. Proposed changes made in the food stamp program at the federal level by Congress could reduce the cost to the state.
Solid Ground has joined 60 community organizations in supporting the SFA. A letter to the legislature signed by all of the organizations states:
For more than 15 years, Washington has strategically leveraged national resources to make sure that food stamps reach families in need. …
But now our food security network isn’t working like it should. During the recession, Washington legislators slashed State Food Assistance benefits for thousands of children growing up in immigrant families, nearly all of whom are children of color. At a time when an estimated one in four Washington children live in food insecure households, the cut to State Food Assistance deepens racial and economic inequality. …
(H)unger is a roadblock to opportunity. Hungry children can’t learn. The ties between hunger, poor health and learning are well understood. If we continue to send children to school without the fuel they need for academic success, we continue to let the opportunity gap swallow up our future.
As the legislative Special Session gets underway in Olympia today, our representatives and senators need to hear that we support the full funding for the State Food Assistance program. Please call the legislative hotline today at 1.800.562.6000 to leave a message, or email your legislators.
Filed under: Advocacy, Food | Tagged: Chidren's Alliance, ending hunger, Food, food justice, food security, immigrants rights, state legislature | 1 Comment »
Posted on February 14, 2013 by Mike Buchman
Your voice is needed to end hunger in Washington!
Join Solid Ground’s Hunger Action Center for the Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition‘s HUNGER ACTION DAY at the Washington State Capitol, Friday, February 22!
This Lobby Day allows the Coalition and supporters to highlight current issues affecting families facing hunger and bring forward priorities to reduce food insecurity in Washington State. Through the collective voice of a coalition, legislators hear the struggles of Washington State residents, food banks, farmers and service providers and are asked to make policy decisions that will end hunger in our communities.
Over the years, this coalition has successfully brought hunger advocates to Olympia to promote strategic policy and state appropriations that maximize federal nutrition programs, reinforce our community-based emergency food assistance system, and link local farmers with the needs of the hungry.
The Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition’s priorities this year are:
- Restore full benefits for families on the State Food Assistance Program.
- An increase to WSDA’s Emergency Food Assistance Program.
- Restore WSDA’s Farm to School and Small Farms programs.
- Create a balanced and sustainable state budget that includes new sources of revenue.
Let your legislators hear your voice and encourage them to support a food secure Washington. Visit the Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition’s website to register.
Individuals who are not able to come to Olympia can participate in the Coalition’s online Lobby Day. Click here to join an online petition. This petition asks lawmakers to ensure that Washington families don’t go hungry in these tough times.
If you have any questions about Hunger Action Day 2013, please contact Elsa Ferguson at email@example.com.
Filed under: Advocacy, Food | Tagged: advocacy, Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition, food justice, food security, Hunger Action Day | Leave a Comment »
Posted on October 29, 2012 by Liz Reed Hawk
Seattle Community Farm panorama (all photos by John Bolivar, jbphotography.com)
On one of the first cool, drizzly fall days following this year’s record-breaking dry Seattle summer, local photographer John Bolivar visited our Lettuce Link program’s Seattle Community Farm at Rainier Vista to help us document 2012′s lush harvest. Although Farm Coordinator Scott Behmer claimed the harvest was beginning to wane, we still witnessed as Scott, Lettuce Link VISTA Amanda Lee and a community volunteer gathered and washed scores of pounds of beets, squash, heirloom tomatoes, radishes and greens.
This is the Seattle Community Farm’s second growing season, and according to the Lettuce Link Blog, more than 7,000 pounds of produce had been harvested and donated to the Rainier Valley Food Bank as of early October 2012 (more than twice last year’s harvest, when the Farm was still getting established). Enjoy this slideshow of the bounty!
Filed under: Food, The Giving Gardener | Tagged: Lettuce Link, gardening, Food, food justice, Seattle Community Farm, Rainier Vista, John Bolivar Photography | Leave a Comment »
Posted on June 22, 2012 by Mike Buchman
(Editor’s note: This post comes from Amelia Swinton of Solid Ground’s Hunger Action Center. Amelia has been working with the Northwest Farm Bill Action Group to lobby for policy changes to help make our food systems more sustainable and better able to meet the nutritional and health needs of all Americans.)
Solid Ground’s Seattle Community Farm, one of the local projects previously funded through the Farm Bill
After weeks of debate, the United States Senate has passed a Farm Bill – or “Food & Farm Bill,” as many believe it should be called. Conceived over 80 years ago as a New Deal program to aid struggling farmers and feed hungry Americans, the Farm Bill has since evolved into our nation’s most influential piece of food and farming legislation. It sets and enforces the rules on what we eat, how much it costs, and under what conditions it is grown. The Senate’s Bill, which passed yesterday, boasts $23 billion in deficit reduction as it blueprints our food system over the next five years. Let’s take a closer look.
There is much cause to celebrate. The legislation eliminates direct payments to commodity farmers, which have been a blunt tool that overfunds industrial, monocrop agriculture. Instead, there will be greater emphasis on need-based crop insurance, including better support for organic growers. Important to Washington growers is an increase in Specialty Crop Block Grants – industry jargon meaning more money for fruits and veggies. The Senate voted to double fund Community Food Project grants, which levy federal money for community-level food system development and currently support Solid Ground’s Seattle Community Farm.
A new local fruit and vegetable program called the Hunger-Free Community Incentive Grants offers $100 million over five years to increase purchases by SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps) customers at farmers markets and other healthy food retailers, while another program would introduce a five-state Farm-to-School pilot project. Summarily, the Senate’s smörgåsbord would support rural economies, improve urban eaters’ access to healthy food, and subsidize agriculture more equitably – all amidst a climate of funding cuts.
Volunteer Peter Zimmerman at the Seattle Community Farm
But there is also reason to grieve, as the Senate Bill made significant chops to the SNAP program. It is deeply troubling to see $4.5 billion in cuts to SNAP at a time when 46 million Americans are enrolled in this program, which is one of the few federal safety nets that expands and contracts based on need. According to the Community Food Security Coalition, these cuts will reduce benefits to approximately half a million food insecure families by $90 a month. Also disappointing were the underfunding of the Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers program, and the failure of an amendment that would have required labeling for genetically engineered foods.
In her statement on the Bill, WA Senator Patty Murray said, “This year’s Farm Bill is a victory for Washington State, our farmers, and our economy – and I was proud to support it. It makes important investments in jobs, provides meaningful support for our fruit and vegetable growers, and reforms many programs while continuing the critical safety net for farmers. I do not believe this legislation is perfect, and I am particularly concerned about the reduction in SNAP (food stamps).” Washington Senators Murray and Maria Cantwell have been champions of economically stimulating and socially just Farm Bill reforms, and we encourage constituents to send their thanks.
What’s next? Well, the food fight marches into the House of Representatives, where it must pass before Obama can sign it into law. The House had originally planned to mark-up the Bill next week, but this process has been delayed – and that is cause for concern.
“Whether there is a 2012 Farm Bill or not will largely rest in the hands of the top House Republican leadership,” says the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. No Farm Bill in 2012 means that funding levels from the 2008 Farm Bill will continue, which are far less progressive than those proposed by the Senate yesterday.
America is hungry for a Food & Farm Bill that addresses the real challenges facing its eaters. While the Senate’s bill makes important strides towards a fairer food system, it continues to overfund commodity agriculture at the expense of struggling Americans. As an agency committed to eliminating injustice in all its forms, we must continue to demand a better Bill. Our friends at the Northwest Farm Bill Action Group are developing a legislative agenda for the House session – whenever it happens – and we encourage you to stay tuned to their website or their Facebook page.
In the meantime, you can Dine Out to support local efforts to organize for a healthier Farm Bill! This Monday, June 25 from 4-10pm, the Northwest Farm Bill Action Group invites you to Local 360 in Belltown. A percentage of all checks will go towards this Seattle-based group’s work to educate and advocate for good food.
Filed under: Food | Tagged: Farm Bill, Food and Farm Bill, food justice, food security, hunger, Lettuce Link, Local 360, Marra Farm, Northwest Farm Bill Action Group, Seattle Community Farm, SNAP, SNAP benefits | Leave a Comment »
Posted on May 10, 2012 by Michelle Bates-Benetua
This post originally appeared on the Lettuce Link Blog and was written by AmeriCorps Member Amelia Swinton, Lettuce Link / Apple Corps’ Outreach & Education Coordinator.
At an Apple Corps “Market Night,” a student uses “dollars” to purchase rainbow chard.
Do you like federal food policies that:
- Create incentives for people to use SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) to purchase fresh, locally-grown fruits and veggies?
- Encourage connections between preschools and small farms?
- Offer grants for the creation or expansion of community gardens?
- Amend laws to allow farmers of color, women, veterans, tribes and first-generation farmers increased access to USDA funds and other subsidies?
- Provide nutritious food on weekends and holidays for hungry schoolchildren?
So do we!!!
These fabulous progressive programs are just a few components of the Let’s Grow Act, recently introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH). The Let’s Grow Act recognizes the potential of community-based agriculture to address hunger and decrease obesity, especially among children, the elderly and low-income Americans.
We need your support to help move this Bill forward!
Please join Lettuce Link in fighting hunger and building local food economies by asking Seattle’s Rep. Jim McDermott to co-sponsor the Let’s Grow Act. Send an email or call 206.553.7170.
Here’s a sample letter to get you started:
Urban communities deserve access to healthy and affordable food, which can also expand local economies. I urge you to co-sponsor the Let’s Grow Act! H.R.4351 introduced by Rep. Fudge (D-OH). Everyone should have access to nutritious and affordable food, and I believe that the Let’s Grow Act will improve the lives of people in my community.
Seattle community leaders have stated their commitment to equitable access to healthy food and a health-centered food system with the Seattle Farm Bill Principles. I believe the Let’s Grow Act builds on these principles and I urge you to show your support by becoming a co-sponsor. Thank you for your time and commitment to representing the voices of Washington’s 7th district.
Not a constituent in Washington’s 7th district? Enter your zipcode to find your Representative. After you call or email, let us know how it went! Leave a comment below or on Lettuce Link’s Facebook page.
Filed under: Advocacy, Food, The Giving Gardener | Tagged: advocacy, Food, food justice, Lettuce Link, Marra Farm | Leave a Comment »
Posted on April 12, 2012 by Liz Reed Hawk
Hunger Hits Home airs Saturday, 4/14/12 at 8pm/7pm Central
This Saturday, April 14 at
8pm/7 Central, the Food Network will air a documentary about the hunger crisis in America called HUNGER HITS HOME.
The Food Network has teamed up with Share Our Strength in their No Kid Hungry campaign to try to get the message out about food insecurity in America. This hour-long documentary shows the perspectives of politicians, parents and – most importantly – children who do not always know where their next meal is coming from.
The Food Network and Share Our Strength hope and believe that if enough people see this documentary and connect with its cause, then we can inspire action against hunger.
Filed under: Food | Tagged: Food, food justice, hunger | Leave a Comment »
Posted on March 13, 2012 by Liz Reed Hawk
This post was adapted from United Way of King County information about Hunger Action Week, originally posted on the Cooking Matters Seattle blog.
United Way of King County (UWKC) is shining a bright light on hunger, asking everyone to think about their relationship to food: Who has food, who doesn’t, where does your food come from? They’re promoting Hunger Action Week 2012, March 19-24 and encourage us all to sign up to participate! When you do, you’ll learn about ways you can get involved locally and be part of a movement that is helping to assure that everyone in our community can put nourishing food on the table.
How you can help:
What does Hunger Action Week hope to accomplish?
The purpose of Hunger Action Week is to raise awareness around hunger. Most people don’t realize how many people are struggling. For most of us, it’s so easy to forget that many in America don’t know where their next meal will come from – or that many have to choose between having enough food to eat and paying for rent.
Data from the Adequate Food in King County section of the Communities Count report, released in February 2012:
- 20% of King County children are food insecure. That means 1 in 5 King County kids are at risk of going hungry.
- 13% of King County residents – or 249,260 people – are food insecure.
- 9% of King County households ran out of food in 2010 – up from 6% in 2007.
- In King County, 49% of Hispanic households with children are food-insecure.
- 15% of South King County Region residents could not afford balanced meals; 8% went hungry.
And King County food assistance programs show that the need continues to climb:
- Basic Food (SNAP) caseloads increased by 83% between 2009 and 2011.
- Seattle food banks have seen a 30% increase in the number of clients coming to them for help. At the same time, they’ve had a 31% decline in donations.
- WIC enrollment has increased steadily since 2006.
During Hunger Action Week, we want to get people thinking about, talking about, and taking action around hunger – so join the conversation!
Filed under: Advocacy, Food | Tagged: ending hunger, Food, food justice, Hunger Action Week | 1 Comment »
Posted on February 15, 2012 by Liz Reed Hawk
(Contributed by Solid Ground’s Hunger Action Center Team)
Orange is the color of hunger awareness. And with 367,000 Washington families struggling to put food on their tables while Washington State budget woes threaten to further slash our safety net, awareness among our state lawmakers is vital. Programs like food stamp benefits for immigrant families, farmers market vouchers for seniors and women with children, school meals funding, and support for local food banks are all in danger.
Amid a sea of orange scarves, over 150 advocates gathered in Olympia on Friday, February 3rd for Hunger Action Day. The message? Protect the programs and infrastructure that ensure people can meet their most basic need: food.
This annual day of advocacy was organized by the Washington State Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition – a statewide coalition of service providers which works to bring the voices of hungry Washington families to the ears of our policymakers to ensure that public policy leads our state’s response to hunger.
L to R: Claire Lane (co-chair, Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition), Jen Estroff (Government Relations Dir., Children’s Alliance) & Trish Twomey, (Solid Ground's Hunger Action Center Dir. & co-chair, Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition). Photo by Joyce Zeigen.
Solid Ground staff from the Hunger Action Center were proud to attend the event and meet with our legislators to explain the importance of these programs to the families we serve. The group also heard from Speaker of the House, Frank Chopp, who thanked Hunger Action Center Director Trish Twomey for her years of service. Speaker Chopp spoke of the importance of our safety net and the need for revenue options to protect the services provided to Washington’s most vulnerable residents.
Hunger Action Day may be over, but it’s not too late to let your legislators know that you want them to protect our state’s anti-hunger infrastructure. Find your legislators here and tell them you support the Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition’s 2012 Legislative Agenda, which seeks to:
- Photo by Julie Washburn, Washington Food Coalition
Filed under: Advocacy, Food | Tagged: advocacy, Food, food justice, hunger, wa state legislature | Leave a Comment »
Posted on October 20, 2011 by Rose Marcotte
Solid Ground’s Lettuce Link program invites you and yours to Marra Farm in South Park to celebrate national Food Day on Monday, October 24. We will explore the crops in our Giving Garden, learn about the rich traditions of farming and community in South Park, and discuss Lettuce Link and Solid Ground’s broader mission to end hunger, poverty and oppression in Seattle. We also will press apples into fresh cider, save seeds for next year, and lead a tour of this community-powered sustainable urban farm. In addition, students from Concord International Elementary will harvest the pumpkins they planted in the Giving Garden last spring. Please dress for the weather, as there is little covered space at the Farm.
Food Day seeks to bring together Americans from all walks of life — parents, teachers and students; health professionals, community organizers and local officials; chefs, school lunch providers and eaters of all stripes — to push for healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way. Visit the Food Day website for more events and information.
What: Food Day
Date: Monday, October 24
Time: 10 am – noon
Location: Marra Farm, 9026 4th Ave S Seattle, WA 98108
RSVP: RSVPs appreciated — sign up on the Food Day registration page
Getting there: Bus routes and driving directions to Marra Farm
Filed under: Events, Food, The Giving Gardener | Tagged: Food, food justice, gardening, Lettuce Link, Marra Farm | Leave a Comment »
Posted on July 19, 2011 by Liz Reed Hawk
(Editor’s note: This is the main story reprinted from our July 2011 Groundviews newsletter. To read the complete newsletter or past issues of Groundviews, please visit our Publications webpage.)
On a cool, drizzly June day, Sudi convinced his 7-year-old brother to join him at a work party at the new farm nestled within their housing complex. They helped move the last load of dirt into neat rows, soon to be planted. Scott Behmer, Seattle Community Farm Coordinator, says that when he started in the fall of 2010, the Farm was little more than “a grass field and a parking lot” near Rainier Vista (a mixed-income housing community just off MLK Way in South Seattle). Today, after two+ years of planning, community meetings and “a lot of physical work moving in 200 cubic yards of soil and tens of thousands of pounds of other materials,” the 1/3-acre Farm is fully planted and celebrated its official Grand Opening on June 25.
Seattle Community Farm is the newest project of Solid Ground’s Lettuce Link program, which works with and in communities to grow and share fresh, nourishing food, and envisions a city where people have equal access to healthy and culturally appropriate food. Scott says, “Our goal is to get vegetables to folks who struggle to afford them.”
Cross-cultural community building
Getting the new Farm to where it is today has been a true organizing effort: Lettuce Link worked with many partners, including Seattle’s P-Patch Program, landscape designer Eric Higbee (who donated his services) and Seattle Housing Authority.
Lettuce Link Program Manager, Michelle Bates-Benetua, says, “Together, we crafted and carried out a culturally relevant engagement process so the community could tell us what they wanted. It may take longer and it is more expensive to provide food, childcare and interpretation, but our intent is to work together with the neighborhood so that in a few years, they run the Farm and we’ve worked ourselves out of a job.
“The grand vision is that the community is able to produce food together across cultures and language, share that food among themselves and with the Rainier Valley Food Bank, and utilize the gathering space as one community instead of several distinct groups living in one neighborhood.”
Mariah Pepper, an AmeriCorps*VISTA serving this year as Seattle Community Farm’s Outreach Coordinator, says, “It’s an interesting neighborhood; Rainier Vista is a mixed-income housing development, so there’s every kind of person you can imagine.” Residents run the gamut from Seattle Housing Authority seniors and people living on very low incomes, to Habitat for Humanity homeowners, to renters and homeowners affording full-market rates.
Seattle Community Farm is built on a Work Trade model Scott describes as “one way to try to make the volunteer model work for people where time might mean a lot more because they’re lower income and might work more jobs. Basically, if you work two hours, you get a bag of vegetables,” worth about $30/bag. “So you’re not just volunteering, you’re coming and working in exchange for vegetables.”
Michelle says, “The goal is to make sure our volunteer opportunities are accessible and meaningful for the community” – and yet this poses challenges. The Rainier Vista area is extremely culturally diverse: Residents speak approximately 50 different languages. Mariah says, “With so many languages and so many cultures, it makes outreach a bit difficult, because there are so many different ways that people interact with each other – and a sea of information. And that’s the thing we’ve all learned: We have to have multiple ways of getting information out there.”
When possible, staff use interpreters and have outreach materials translated into multiple languages. Scott says Rainier Vista has “a lot of community events. So we’re going to those, and going door to door, leaving flyers and talking to people.”
Sudi, a Seattle Community Farm volunteer and Rainier Vista resident
Sudi is one young resident who both volunteers regularly and is helping get the word out to other residents. Originally from Ethiopia, his family has lived at Rainier Vista for six years. Having just finished his third year studying chemistry at St. Martin’s College, he says his dad asked him to come out to volunteer one day, and they happened to be doing a class on composting. “We talked about fertilizers and nitrogen, and so I get interested when I hear that!” Sudi says, “I think it is wonderful. Aside from just doing the work, you actually learn how to grow plants. We have fun talking about different kinds of plants, and it’s just a learning experience.
“I try to get people involved here in the neighborhood. Scott gave me flyers, and one day I took it down and gave it to some people – trying to explain the reason behind it. The reason why this is here, from my understanding, is this is a (mostly) vegetable garden – and trying to get more nutritions from vegetables into this community, who either don’t know much about the importance of it – or since vegetables are expensive, they don’t get much of it. Having it here, and them working on it and harvesting it themselves, is a big thing.”
Scott says, “It’s always great to get volunteers from the community to come out and work, and hear a little about them, and see them enjoy it.” Mariah adds: “Food is so connected to culture – so it’s a way to talk about how we grow things, how we cook things and eat things, and have a conversation across these differences. I would like to see the Farm be able to bridge that.”
For more information about the Seattle Community Farm, please contact 206.694.6828 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.solid-ground.org/Programs/Nutrition/CommunityFarm.
Filed under: Art & Science, Food, Groundviews | Tagged: Food, food justice, gardening, Lettuce Link, sustainable agriculture | Leave a Comment »