Marra Farm serves with seeds, soil and sunshine

Harvesting chard at Marra Farm

Nutrition & Garden Educator Pamela Ronson, Dani Ladyka from Apple Corps and volunteer Sarah Rehdner harvest chard at Marra Farm.

Recently, I bused to the South Park neighborhood to volunteer at Solid Ground’s Giving Garden at Marra Farm, a project run by our Lettuce Link program. Farmer Scott Behmer wasn’t surprised when I arrived late: “This is a really underserved area, regarding transportation and lots of other services. And really, that’s why we’re here.”

Scott explained that the farm has two main functions: food production and education, or in other words, “fighting the symptoms and fighting the causes.” He added, “Food banks are really important, but they won’t end hunger. Education is one of the ways we can change the system.”

I witnessed the education side of Lettuce Link’s work when a 5th grade class arrived from Salmon Bay K-8 School, an alternative public school located in Ballard. The group gathered around Scott for a brief orientation, and he explained the origins of Marra Farm: “All the land around the city used to be farmland to feed the city. This bit of land has stayed farmland.” The farm is named after the Marra family, who used to own and work the land.

He gave the students a brief intro to the food industry as well, explaining that each bite of food travels an average of 1,500 miles. “Some of it is food that we can grow here, and we still get it from far away.”

Throughout the year, the farm produces 25-30 different vegetables, which last year resulted in 15,000 pounds of food (not including another 8,000 pounds from our Seattle Community Farm in the Rainier Valley). That day the harvest included parsley, loose-leaf lettuce, chard and squash.

The many colors of Swiss chard

Colorful Swiss chard, ready to be harvested

The produce is mostly donated to food banks in the area, as well as the South Park Senior Center and South Park Community Kitchen. Lettuce Link also offers Work Trade opportunities, where volunteers can help maintain the farm in exchange for produce.

The day I volunteered, Providence Regina House – a food and clothing bank that serves four zip codes from South Park to Des Moines – came to collect food. Jack Wagstaff, Providence Regina House Program Manager, echoed Scott, saying that their food bank is intentionally located in that area, because “it’s radically underserved by anyone else.”

Before the food bank truck arrived, the students were each able to harvest two acorn squash. “We all have times where we get to help others, and we all have times where we get to be helped by others,” Scott told them. “Today, you get to be the helpers.”

Acorn squash, harvested by the 5th-grade volunteers

Acorn squash, harvested by the 5th-grade volunteers

The class teacher, Nicolette Jensen, said she has brought her class to the farm for the last three years. She feels it’s important for the students to “learn about the food industry and about how food used to be in the city. I think that little bit of education goes a long way.”

After harvesting, we washed the produce and stacked it in crates, ready for pickup. As the students ate their lunch, volunteers and employees gathered under the tent; Jack from Providence Regina House shared some snacks, and a neighbor joined us from across the street. Though everyone came from different places and had different levels of experience, a sense of community and shared purpose was clear at Marra Farm.

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‘Tis the season to enjoy some pumpkin!

This post contributed by our staff at Cooking Matters originally appeared on their blog.

pumpkin-smoothie

The final product: a delicious yet healthy pumpkin smoothie

It’s October and you know what that means…PUMPKIN OVERLOAD!

When we enter our grocery store, we know it is “pumpkin season” as we are welcomed by the different pumpkins used as decorations in the front of the store. Our taste buds start to send signals to our brain telling us that we must devour a homemade pumpkin pie by the end of this season.

However, our busy schedules say otherwise and discourage us from taking part of the Pumpkin trend this month. We conclude that we won’t have time to make this delicious pumpkin recipe, since we barely have to time to prepare our regular meals.

Do not be discouraged any longer! I have developed a pumpkin recipe that takes no longer than 5 minutes! Yes, you read right…5 minutes!

Let us not delay this recipe any longer. You will find below the ingredients and steps below to create a PUMPKIN SMOOTHIE that you can make at breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Pumpkin Smoothie Recipe

Prep time 5 minsTotal time 5 mins

Serves: 1

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 medium banana (frozen)
  • 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup  low-fat milk and and add a 1  tsps. of vanilla extract or unsweetened vanilla soy milk

Instructions

  1. Mix everything into a blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.

*You may need to stop to stir once or twice. If the smoothie appears or tastes too thick, don’t be afraid to add a touch more soy milk or even a little water.

FamilyWorks celebrates 20 years of nourishing, connecting & empowering our community

FamilyWorks celebrates 20 years at their Sunday Dinner and Auction

FamilyWorks celebrates 20 years at their Sunday Supper & Auction

On October 25, I had the opportunity to represent Solid Ground alongside Speaker of the House Frank Chopp (also Solid Ground Senior Advisor and former Fremont Public Association Executive Director) at FamilyWorks Resource Center & Food Bank’s 20th Anniversary Sunday Supper & Auction celebration. It was a joyful and inspiring evening.

For 20 years, the resource center has provided comprehensive, strength-based programming to support families in conjunction with the food bank. In addition to providing nourishing food, FamilyWorks creates programs that support and help develop parenting and life skills for individuals, families and teen parents.

Photos from FamilyWorks’ 20 years of service (click for larger images and captions)

Throughout the 20th Anniversary celebration, many stories were shared about the lives touched by FamilyWorks. One story I found especially moving featured a FamilyWorks food bank recipient who is now a trusted FamilyWorks volunteer as well as a resident of Santos Place on Solid Ground’s Sand Point Housing campus.

staff1

FamilyWorks Executive Director Jake Weber (left) with Eva Washington (right)

It is an impressive feat that our colleagues at FamilyWorks have provided critical resources to our shared community for 20 years. In particular, I would like to thank Ms. Jake Weber, FamilyWork’s Executive Director, who has been a moving force there since the agency’s foundation. She served two years on the founding board followed by 18 years of service as Executive Director.

At the dinner, FamilyWorks announced the first-ever Kerwin Manuel Impact Award, named after the late Mr. Manuel for his dedicated and courageous service to FamilyWorks and their program participants. Frank and I were honored and grateful to accept the award on behalf of Solid Ground, in recognition of the special partnership that exists between our two organizations.

I’m proud of the long-lasting and meaningful partnership that exists between FamilyWorks and Solid Ground. As FamilyWorks nourishes and strengthens individuals and families by connecting people with support, resources and community, Solid Ground works to end poverty and undo racism and other oppressions that are root causes of poverty.

Our region is a better place because of FamilyWorks’ important work and the partnership we continue to share.

Financial Fitness Tips: What affects your credit score?

Solid Ground’s Financial Fitness Boot Camp and ConnectUp team up to create financial fitness tips like these to send out through our Resource Wire

Financial Fitness Boot Camp Coach, Judy Poston

Financial Fitness Boot Camp Coach, Judy Poston

Your credit score is important! Keeping it high will allow you to take out loans in the future. Financial Fitness Boot Camp explains why the following actions are SAFE or HARMFUL to your credit score.

Checking my credit report: SAFE!

Checking your own credit report will not hurt your credit rating because that is considered a “soft” inquiry. Plus, you are entitled to check your own credit report under federal law. (A “hard” inquiry in your credit file is a record of any application for credit that you made.)

Getting married to someone with bad credit: SAFE!

Your credit score or credit rating will not suffer simply because you get married to someone with bad credit. By maintaining separate credit accounts for things like credit cards and car loans, a spouse with good credit can keep his or her credit rating from being impacted by the other spouse with a poor credit history. But, if you take on joint financial obligations, such as a mortgage, and the bill doesn’t get paid for any reason (including divorce), then that will impact both parties’ credit scores.

Renting a car with a debit card: HARMFUL! 

Believe it or not, renting a car with a debit card can hurt your credit. Why? Doing so can trigger a “hard” inquiry. In the fine print of many auto rental agreements is a provision giving the car company the right to pull your credit report if you pay with a debit card. Who knew?!

Paying in full a high credit card balance: SAFE!

Paying off a high credit card balance will not hurt your credit score. On the contrary, it should boost your credit score. According to FICO, 30% of your FICO credit score is based on the amount of credit card debt you have outstanding. Lowering your credit card debt generally increases your credit score.

Opening a new store credit card to get a discount: HARMFUL!

Opening a new retail store credit card can lower your credit score, mainly because the application will generate a “hard” inquiry on your credit report. So the next time you’re out shopping and a nice lady behind the counter tries to sign you up for a store credit card so you get a discount on your purchase, just politely say, “No thanks.”

Disputing a credit card bill with the credit bureaus: SAFE!

Simply disputing a credit card bill should not have any impact on your credit score. However, you should be aware that when a dispute is under review, that credit account is effectively “removed” from consideration in the credit-scoring process.


We invite you all to call the Financial Fitness Boot Camp at either 206.694.6739 or 206.694.6776 and make an appointment to see one of Solid Ground’s financial counselors. They can pull your credit report for free, teach you how to develop a budget/spending plan, show you how to read your credit report, and explain what to do if you need to dispute an item on your report. They would be happy to assist you with whatever you want to focus on to help you reach your financial fitness goals! Don’t delay, call today!

A journey to permanent housing

JourneyHome Case Manager Katie Showalter shared this story of a family’s successful journey in Solid Ground’s staff newsletter. We’re reprinting here with her permission.

I have a young lady on my caseload who has weathered a tremendous amount of trauma, DV (domestic violence) and barriers to housing. She has a degenerative bone disease that will not get better and is greatly impacted by that; she is unable to work due to her physical challenges. She has worked hard to try to access TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and Social Security benefits and has come up against denials again and again.

Anthony, Katie and the motel by Anthony

Anthony, Katie and the motel
by Anthony

JourneyHome (Solid Ground’s rapid rehousing and case management program) was recently able to afford her a hotel stay for herself and her young son. Prior to this stay, they were living in their car, which was then stolen; this left them on the street. When I visited them at the hotel, I brought a Project Cool backpack and school supplies for her son, Anthony. The 6-year-old first grader was eager to organize his supplies and talked about how excited he was to be attending the same school as his cousin.

I gave him a thank you card to write on or draw a picture for the folks that organized Project Cool school supplies. He drew a picture that I thought was of him and his cousin outside of his new school. But no; it turns out that he drew a picture of him and me outside of his new home, the motel. These moments remind me of why we do this work.

Affording his family the hotel stay stabilized them. Anthony’s mom was able to enroll him in school. For now, the hotel is his home until we can assist them in finding a landlord and new apartment.


Good news: Since this was written, Solid Ground Benefits Attorney Sara Robbins recently let me know the family’s TANF appeal went through and our client now has a cash grant! Thanks to Sara for her good work! And even more good news: Anthony and his family have moved into permanent housing!

The Giving Gardener: Plant cover crops now for healthy veggies next year

This post was contributed by Scott Behmer, Seattle Community Farm Coordinator.

2015-03-24 SCF Cover Crop ready to be tilled in

This cover crop, planted winter 2014, was ready to be tilled by March 2015.

Unlike veggies that we grow to feed us, we grow cover crops to feed the soil. They do many wonderful things like preventing erosion and water runoff, providing nutrients to the soil, and suppressing weeds.

When planting cover crop for winter, September is ideal and October is okay. The basics are similar for planting in either summer or winter. For winter, plant the cover crop in September. It will grow throughout the winter, competing with the weeds that would otherwise grow, holding the soil in place to prevent erosion and some runoff, as well as soak up lots of water to prevent more runoff.

When spring rolls around, till (mix) the cover crop into the soil where it will decompose and add their nutrients to the soil. It’s like composting, but directly in your garden bed. For nutrients, the ideal time to till cover crop in is as soon as it starts to flower. After that, the plants will instead be putting their nutrients into their seeds where they are less available to the soil, and if you wait until the seeds are produced it may become a weed itself.

You should allow two or three weeks for the cover crop to decompose before planting. If you run out of time before planting there are two options. You can either till in the cover crop early, or yank it out and compost it in your compost pile instead. If planting cover crop for the summer, the process is the same except it will grow much more quickly.

There are many different plants that are well suited to be a cover crop and many times of the year that you can plant them. They are most widely used over the winter when many veggies aren’t growing anyway, but you can also plant them in summer if you have a space that won’t be used for a while.

One of the most popular summer varieties is buckwheat. Buckwheat is fast growing and produces a lot of plant matter quickly. Over-the-winter popular varieties include field peas, vetch, clover, fava beans, and cereal rye (not perennial rye). It’s also very common to mix a few varieties together.

Cover crop photos by Steve Tracey

Program changes better meet the needs of chronically homeless families

For families living on low incomes that include an adult with disabilities, affordable housing can be nearly impossible to find, let alone keep. Many times, families rely on fixed income, essentially living “from crisis to crisis,” according to Sand Point Housing Residential Services Manager Tamara Brown.

By February, these transitional housing units at Sand Point will be converted into Permanent Supportive Family Housing.

In 2016, these transitional housing units at Sand Point Housing will be converted into Permanent Supportive Family Housing.

By February 2016, Solid Ground will have converted 26 transitional housing units at our Sand Point Housing campus to Permanent Supportive Housing to help address the needs of chronically homeless families. This conversion is in line with the Housing First strategy, which simply put, provides homes to people experiencing homelessness before addressing any addiction problems, criminal records, or other barriers they may have to accessing affordable housing.

“The idea is to stabilize the family first,” says Brown. “Then we look at the barriers and try to help the family address them. The program will make it easier for families to obtain and maintain housing.”

Housing First has not only been more effective in terms of keeping people housed, but it is also more cost effective. Solid Ground’s program differs from similar ones by providing homes to chronically homeless families, rather than individuals.

Sand Point’s new Permanent Supportive Housing units will have very low screening requirements, meaning that those with poor credit, substance abuse or mental health conditions, or past eviction, domestic violence or criminal histories will not be denied housing.

Brown explains that providing people in dire situations with immediate access to housing allows them to actually focus on recovery and stability. Once people have their basic needs met, they can begin to consider making changes that will improve their quality of life. “What many people don’t understand is that people don’t choose to be homeless – rather, they give in to being homeless … because it’s their best option right now, rather than living with domestic violence, dealing with untreated serious mental illness or addiction, or struggling with a limited income that won’t pay for an apartment. It’s the lack of choices that causes them to remain outside.”

As a result of the lower screening requirements, family members may require more support and access to services such as financial counseling, therapy and medical attention. In response to this predicted need, a Therapeutic Case Manager, trained to address the needs of the tenants, will offer support to residents, and case management staff will provide 24/7 coverage. Additionally, other Solid Ground programs and community supports will be available to provide a holistic array of services to residents.

Before the units open, a lot of work must be completed. Brown explains that families currently in the transitional Sand Point Family transitional housing units will be moving out, though each of them entered the program knowing that it was a 12-month, time-limited transitional program, designed for families to exit to permanent housing as they stabilized.

“There are a couple families who will have been here less than 12 months, but we are working really hard with them,” says Brown. “We sat down with all the families individually to figure out how to comfortably transition them into new housing.”

Once these families successfully find housing, the two buildings will be lightly renovated to meet the needs of the incoming families. For example, one of the transitional housing units will be converted into a community meeting space, in order to foster a supportive environment and communication between neighbors.

Units will be posted on Family Housing Connection in the next couple of weeks, and referrals will be accepted beginning at the end of November.

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