Cooking Matters classes cater to all ages

On a basic level, we eat to survive – but food is usually so much more than that. It can be a comfort, a social activity and even a pastime.

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Cooking Matters students each got a chance to work over the stove, scrambling eggs and making fried rice.

At a recent cooking and nutrition class held by Solid Ground’s Cooking Matters program, this was the topic of the nutrition lesson: to be mindful of what we eat and why we eat it. Cooking Matters hosts 6-week classes for people of all ages throughout the year, but this particular class was for families with children in middle school.

Cooking Matters, part of the national Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, teaches families and children how to buy and cook healthy food on a budget. The goal is not only to teach, but also to provide a space for participants to share experiences and information. Cooking Matters Program Coordinator Nicole Dufva says, “We try to foster a dialogue about what it means to eat healthy for each person.”

In the area, Cooking Matters partners with up to 60 community organizations to host and teach classes. The recent class for families with middle schoolers was a satellite program at Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, run by the nutritionist at the clinic, Rebecca Finkel.

Though it’s the satellite program’s 8th year, this was Rebecca’s first time teaching a class specifically for families with middle schoolers. Before, the clinic hosted classes for families with children ages 8-13. This change was made in response to parent comments, suggesting that working with peer groups is more productive and fun for their children.

Rebecca explains that middle schoolers are old enough to do more actual cooking than younger children, so “it’s a good time for them to gain basic skills and nutrition awareness so that if their parents are at work or away, they can make something easy and healthy to eat.”

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The near-finished product: fried rice with tofu

After the nutrition lesson, the kids practiced cracking, scrambling and frying eggs to use in the main dish, fried rice with tofu. Meanwhile, the parents sat down to talk with Rebecca.

Rebecca explains that parents’ participation is equally important for this age group, because the parents are responsible for “setting the food environment.” In other words, parents are responsible for the food that is available if their children want to make food for themselves.

“The food environment also determines the rules around eating together,” says Rebecca. “Is the TV on during the meal? Are screens allowed during the meal? What do they discuss at the table?” The parent group discusses changes that could be made in the household to create a healthier lifestyle, including cooking together, getting more exercise or eating meals together.

On the 5th week of each class, the group travels to a local grocery store to practice shopping for nutritious food on a budget. Many families may consider fresh produce to be too expensive, so Cooking Matters emphasizes the health benefits of frozen and canned fruits and vegetables; in general, all classes focus on a plant-based diet.

Besides fried rice with tofu, this group made a delicious mango salsa to snack on during the class. At the end of the night, everyone received a copy of the recipes and a bag of fresh ingredients so that they could enjoy the dishes again at home.

‘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.

Digging deep (at the Danny Woo Garden)

This post was contributed by Lauren Wong and originally appeared on the Apple Corps blog.magill_dannywoo_image-59

Hello! I’m Lauren, one of two Apple Corps members positioned at the Danny Woo Garden in the Chinatown-International District. We provide garden classes to youth in the neighborhood in the hopes that they’ll learn more about where their food comes from, have a positive outdoor experience, and form connections between culture and food. Also incorporated in our program is a healthy cooking component, where we use vegetables harvested from the garden to create delicious salads and snacks.

This spring, I had magill_dannywoo_image-65the pleasure of working with a class of fifteen 5th graders from a local after-school program. Since many of them were already acquainted with the garden – either through a previous garden class or a simple meander through the neighborhood – we were able to delve a little deeper into the heart of the garden and what exactly makes it tick.

We planted microgreen seeds in our own plots and watched them grow, carefully watering and removing weeds each week to gain a sense of the time and effort required to grow our own food. We went on a scavenger hunt to discover the regional origins of different vegetables and dug around in a worm bin looking for critters. We made comfrey compost tea, a great source of nitrogen, and observed it become brown and pungent over time.

We prepared an Asian greens salad, a crunchy bok choy slaw, and a sweet and savory dressing that goes well on everything:

  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 T rice vinegar
  • 1 T honey
  • 2 T sesame oil

We harvested garden strawberries and compared them to supermarket strawberries, noticing the differences in taste, color, size, and shape. We investigated seed pods on a mature kale plant, sparking a discussion about the importance of seed saving. And to cap off our time together, we even had an “older kids teach younger kids” tour, where my class of 5th graders brought a class of first graders to the garden and showed them what they learned.

All in all, it was a lovely six weeks of sunshine, food, and joy. Want to learn more about what we do? Visit our blog at dannywookids.blogspot.com.

Work for food justice! Apple Corps is hiring AmeriCorps members

AmeriCorps positions teaching nutrition and education in low-income schools in Seattle.Interested in a year of service? Have a passion for food justice? Apple Corps is hiring AmeriCorps Members for the 2015-16 service year!

Apple Corps is part of Solid Ground’s effort to address the root causes of obesity, malnutrition and hunger in underserved communities. National Service members work to promote healthy eating and active living for children living in poverty and experiencing oppression.

Our team is guided by the belief that all people deserve to live healthful lives. In this work, Apple Corps Members serve at elementary schools in communities where there is a high proportion of food insecurity, decreased access to healthy foods, and increased risk of childhood obesity. Apple Corps serves to educate school-age children and their families about nutrition, healthy cooking, gardening and behaviors that promote health.

Apple Corps Members collaborate with Solid Ground staff to teach classroom-based nutrition and healthy cooking lessons to Seattle Public Schools students, using evidence-based curricula, via 10- to 12-week educational units in three elementary schools and nearby community organizations.

Apple Corps is a program of the Washington Service Corps. All service positions run September 16, 2015 – August 15, 2016 (contingent on funding). Visit the Washington Service Corps website for information on requirements and how to apply.

Applications are accepted now through June 21, 2015. For questions, please email applecorps@solid-ground.org.

Food Justice: What does it mean to learn it, grow it, live it?

PrintFor some, Chefs Night Out has been a longstanding tradition of food, fun and fundraising. Local food and wine enthusiasts gather for a cocktail hour, auction, and a much anticipated dinner prepared tableside by one of 10 locally celebrated chefs featured at the event. This year the celebration continues on November 16 at the beautiful Seattle Design Center in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle.

In addition to having the opportunity to savor a gourmet four-course meal with fine wine pairings, attendees partaking in these festivities also get to do so while contributing to a cause that challenges the root causes of hunger. All proceeds from the event go toward Solid Ground’s work to achieve food justice through the Hunger & Food Resources department and its subsidiary programs. But this year is a little different; the focus is not only on food justice, it’s also on the development of food justice as a living mantra for the local community. A mantra built on the tenets of learning it, growing it, and living it.

LEARN IT
The Apple Corps program, a team of National Service members dedicated to nutrition education, works within local schools to combine standard subjects like math, science, literacy and art with cooking, wellness and physical activity. Gerald Wright, Hunger & Food Resources Director at Solid Ground, firmly believes that nutritional knowledge is power:

Apple Corps 2008The whole idea around nutrition education is that if we can really train children from an early age in all aspects of healthy eating, in understanding the value and benefit of eating balanced, nutritional meals, if we can help children at that young age really start to fall in love with healthy foods – taste it, experience it, and see that it’s good – that enables them to start making healthier choices. That is supportive of food justice.”

GROW IT
Developing an urban farm in a rapidly sprawling city like Seattle can be difficult. But the Lettuce Link program, which has been gardening and giving since 1988, is still going strong. By cooperatively operating two lively farms with their adjacent communities and collaborating with over 64 P-Patch community gardens and 18 other giving gardens, Lettuce Link manages to donate an average of 50,000 pounds of produce per year to those who need it! Marra Farm’s ¾-acre Giving Garden utilizes the dwindling farming space in Seattle and encourages folks in the South Park neighborhood to invest in growing organic food and the environment around them. Seattle Community Farm‘s repurposed sliver of land in the Rainier Vista housing community is also open to local residents and volunteers, with produce going to the Rainier Valley Food Bank and neighborhood residents with lower incomes.

Lettuce Link 1988“Lettuce Link is all about being a community place where people can not only come and learn about growing food, but they can actually experience it,” Gerald says.

The program aims to offer experiential knowledge and hands-on learning as a means of informing and encouraging the local community to grow its own food. The objective is to offer people the tools needed to ensure that price and availability don’t become the barrier to choosing fresh and healthy options. By showing people that you can grow your own food with a little bit of space and some water, that’s putting control over access and quality back into the hands of the folks who need it most. With all of the opportunities that Lettuce Link offers to stay connected to the food we eat by learning how to grow it, this element is a critical cornerstone of food justice.

LIVE IT

Eating is necessary to sustain life. Cooking, however, is not – and not everyone has equal access to the knowledge or skills to cook the vegetables they’ve been told are good for them.

Cooking Matters 1994 (by John Bolivar)

Photo by John Bolivar

Maybe people have a concept of what constitutes healthy eating. Someone goes to the doctor and their doctor tells them to go on a low-sodium diet. But they may not know how to cook foods within their new diet. We want people to be in a position of power over their eating. Knowing vegetables are healthy is different from knowing how to cook them,” offers Gerald.

This is where the Cooking Matters program comes into play. With generous in-kind donations from Charlie’s Produce and Whole Foods Market, Cooking Matters students (from kindergartners to seniors) attend hands-on cooking lessons and receive take-home groceries to continue cooking healthy recipes at home. Participants also receive food and nutrition expertise from community volunteer chefs, nutritionists and class assistants. Because “it’s not enough just to know what is nutritious and how to grow it, but also how to cook it,” Gerald says.

We’re turning the page on a community exercising the right to know, grow and eat healthy and culturally relevant foods. And while shopping, weeding or cooking can seem like laborious tasks, they empower individuals to make healthy and sustainable choices that feed their bodies and their communities.

_______

“Junk” vs. “real” food vs. farmers markets: What’s practical?

There’s a large misconception about how severely limited access is to healthy, nutritious food for many people living on low incomes. In his article “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?,” Mark Bittman compares costs between fast food and “real food” found at grocery stores to be prepared at home. However, the article doesn’t take into account that even food purchased at the supermarket isn’t necessarily “real food.”

Thinking of the kind of groceries that a person living on a low income might buy, the following among others may come to mind: meat containing pink slime, mass-produced eggs, pesticide-laden vegetables, and also, processed foods galore with plenty of additives and preservatives that have a much longer shelf life than fresh produce. (And which, for someone working multiple jobs with dependents who might not have time to take weekly shopping trips, can be miracles as they are often easy-to-prepare, long-lasting foods.)

Grocery shopping

Compare the ingredients of a typical sesame seed bun on a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with cheese and an inexpensive package of Sara Lee sesame seed buns found at a typical supermarket chain. The ingredients are practically identical. Little do we know where the meat comes from (or what, truly, goes into their “beef” patties), how the cow is raised and butchered, and how the meat is then treated and packaged for McDonald’s (pink slime). But the same goes for the largest meat retailer in the United States.

Before the truth about what pink slime is (lean, finely textured beef trimmings) and why it is pink (it’s treated with ammonia hydroxide) came out, large supermarket chains had been selling products with this meat filler in their stores. It was only after the story broke that a couple of them immediately pulled it from their shelves. Others said they would remove the product “as quickly as possible.” For someone who doesn’t always have a stable income, waiting is not an option.

What does one do when they seek a healthier lifestyle by not just buying “real food” from a supermarket but by eating truly all natural and organic produce, grass-fed meat, whole foods grains and dairy? Certainly farmers markets would be a great place to start. They provide access to fresh organic fruits and vegetables by cutting out the middleman also known as retailers. Buying directly from the farmer should reduce costs, right? Nope. According to a recent study, farmers market prices for produce were higher on average than your local grocery store.

squash, tomatoes, vegetables in bowl

On occasion, I admit to spending more on seasonal, organic produce at any given farmers market in Seattle when the exact same quality is available for less at the local natural foods store (PCC in my experience). However, this personal encounter seems to be unique to Seattle – one of the most expensive cost-of-living cities in the U.S. When I’ve visited markets in Portland, Oregon, Salt Lake City, Utah and Chicago, Illinois, I noticed the prices were much more reasonable. So without delving into the exact reason why our produce is so much more expensive than some other metropolitan areas, take a moment to really think about whether you, as an individual or supporting a family, can access organic, sustainable and affordable produce with your own personal budget, regardless of where you are in the world.

Those with higher incomes quite possibly live in more upscale neighborhoods in which local, natural markets and farmers markets are within walking or a few miles biking or driving distance. Since the housing prices in Seattle have made it difficult for middle class to find affordable housing – looking to those living on middle-to-low incomes or at poverty level – we can’t expect high-end organic markets to be available in neighborhoods where residents cannot afford their products. Expensive farmers markets won’t help much, even for those who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, a program that has received recent cuts and is constantly threatened with more.

At a recent Community Alliance for Global Justice meeting, in which concerned folks from all over Seattle came to talk about racism, classism and sexism in the global food system, one woman spoke about the Safeway in Rainier Beach, a neighborhood in South Seattle. “You all talk about there being no access to grocery stores in ‘food deserts,’ but even the Safeway close to me…their produce is horrible,” she explained. “I went into a Safeway in Ballard a few months ago, and it was like night and day.” Ballard: a popular, up-and-coming and expensive neighborhood in Northwest Seattle.

Some local farms, P-Patches and guerrilla gardeners in the greater Seattle area are working hard to ensure healthy, organic and culturally appropriate foods are available to the community. Some are listed here. Through Solid Ground’s Lettuce Link program, the Seattle Community Farm and our Giving Garden at Marra Farm are two other examples of efforts to create access to fresh organic produce. But a couple hundred acres in a metro area of 3.5 million people is only one small part of working for food justice. Real, systemic change in our food system is in order – not just talking about “real” versus “junk” food.

June 2014 Groundviews: Growing healthy partnerships

Groundviews is Solid Ground’s quarterly newsletter for our friends and supporters. Below is the June 2014 Groundviews lead story; please visit our website to read the entire issue online.

If you visit Lettuce Link’s Giving Garden at Marra Farm in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood on any given day from March to October, you’re likely to find a beehive of activity — often involving groups of students from Concord International School (pre-K through 5th grade), located just a few blocks away. Via collaboration with Solid Ground’s Lettuce Link and Apple Corps programs and Concord teachers, students learn about nutrition, the environment, and sustainable gardening and food systems. 

Amelia Swinton works one-to-one with a Concord International student. (Photo by Brad Fenstermacher)

Amelia Swinton works one-to-one with a Concord International student. (Photo by Brad Fenstermacher)

At the center of the buzzing, you might find Amelia Swinton, Lettuce Link Education Coordinator, who describes her job as “the meeting ground of two different education programs.” There’s gardening education through Lettuce Link, combined with nutrition education through Apple Corps. In the fall and winter, she partners with an Apple Corps AmeriCorps member to teach weekly indoor nutrition-education lessons at Concord. Then during the growing season, classes move outdoors for hands-on gardening at Marra Farm, where kids get to “Adopt-a-Plot” that they plant, nurture and harvest themselves. Best of all, they get to bring the veggies home for their families to enjoy.

Nate Moxley, Lettuce Link Program Manager, says it’s “a collective approach. We’re working together to achieve common goals around food justice, access and education. Almost everything that we do comes back to that.”

Engaging families
Since 1998, Solid Ground’s involvement as one of several stewarding organizations at Marra Farm has greatly increased access to healthy nutritious food in South Park, and one of the most effective conduits for this has been Concord students themselves. When Solid Ground launched the Apple Corps program in 2007 to do nutrition and fitness education in schools and nonprofits, Concord became a natural partner.

In addition to classroom lessons, there are afterschool events designed  not only to engage families, but also to encourage self-determination where healthy food choices are concerned. Annual “Market Night” celebrations are one such event, combining health and nutrition information and activities with cultural sharing presentations, and an open-air market where each kid is empowered to choose from and “purchase” a variety of fresh produce.

Rained out from the outdoor classroom, Joanne cooks up some fresh produce grown at Marra Farm. (Photo by Brad Fenstermacher)

Rained out from the outdoor classroom, Joanne cooks up some fresh produce grown at Marra Farm. (Photo by Brad Fenstermacher)

At Concord’s recent Market Night, Amelia introduced us to Joanne – a 4th grader and very enthusiastic budding gardener – who has brought her family to the Farm on several occasions. Joanne tells us, “I like Marra Farm because they garden, and also they let other kids do it.” Her favorite veggie to grow is “peas. They’re actually a little hard; you have to use sticks so they can climb, and you need to water them and weed them every single time.”

Joanne definitely thinks it’s better to grow your own food rather than buy it in a grocery store because, “It’s more nutritious, because you’re proud of yourself, and you think it’s very good!” She says someday, “I’m going to go and make my own garden in the back of my house.” For now, she and her parents are happy to live so close to Marra Farm.

Another way families get involved is through student-led Community Kitchens, known at Concord as “4th Grade Cooks.” Amelia says, “The logic behind 4th Grade Cooks is that the best way to learn something is to teach it – and kids should be the nutrition teachers for their families. Kids are a great ‘carrot’ to get their whole family involved, and then it becomes a night where kids are in the lead in cooking healthy food – the end result being a fun, positive space where everybody eats a healthy, free dinner. And what family doesn’t want to come cook with their cute kid?”

Amelia Swinton helps Concord International 5th graders tell the difference between weeds and edible plants. (Photo by Brad Fenstermacher)

Amelia Swinton helps Concord International 5th graders tell the difference between weeds and edible plants. (Photo by Brad Fenstermacher)

Honoring community strengths
In South Park, 30% of residents speak Spanish, and Latino students make up the largest ethnic group (over 61%) at Concord. As an international school, the dual-language immersion program strives for all students to become bilingual/biliterate in English and Spanish. While Amelia is fluent in Spanish, she says she hopes that Solid Ground’s work in South Park will become “more community based and build leadership amongst folks from the neighborhoods where we’re working. As a white educator not from the community, this feels especially important to me.”

One way Amelia connects the community to gardening and nutrition education efforts is to invite parents and teachers to guest-teach classes in their areas of expertise. Recently, one student’s mom gave his class a tour of the Marra Farm Chicken Co-op that she helped to create. “To encourage families to share some of their knowledge is a really powerful way of switching out those roles of who has knowledge, and who’s the giver of knowledge, and who’s the receiver of knowledge.”

But she adds, “I think the most important kernels of my work at Marra Farm are getting kids to bond with nature and healthy eating – and doing so in a way that acknowledges how agriculture and farming have been felt really disproportionately by different communities. Particularly in the Latino community, there’s been a lot of suffering through agriculture. There is also a huge amount of knowledge and pride. I hope the program continues to grow in a way that acknowledges people’s different experiences, while leading with the really beautiful and important things that happen when people love on their environment, feed their bodies well, and treat animals with respect.”

Amelia says, “Part of what makes nutrition education and the Marra Farm Giving Garden such a natural fit is that nutrition is all about, ‘Eat your fruits and veggies!’ And the Giving Garden makes it possible in a community that would otherwise struggle to access produce. Where do you get fresh vegetables? Marra Farm! Actually being able to say, ‘This is important and this is how you can get it’ is really powerful.”

Urgent: call your Senators about the Farm Bill

Clean radishes

Clean radishes

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: 1.202.224.3441

•    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.

Fully fund Washington State’s smart response to childhood hunger

A young child makes a peanut butter and Jelly sandwichState 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!

Background
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.

Pouring on the support

Executive Chef Augi and General Manager Tino in the kitchen

For many years, the Nickerson Street Saloon has come up with creative ways to support Solid Ground. With the support of their suppliers, they have a tasty history of donating a portion of their holiday beer revenues to Solid Ground.

This year is no exception: Through the end of the year, they will donate a portion of the sales of every glass of New Belgium’s Shift Pale Lager to Solid Ground. Stop on by for a fine brew to support a fine cause!

Also, last week Nickerson Street Saloon hosted its second annual Thanksgiving feast for clients of Solid Ground and the FamilyWorks food bank.

“Our involvement with Solid Ground started through Kira Zylstra [who manages Solid Ground’s Homeless Prevention Programs],” explains Chris “Tino” Martino, General Manager.

“She worked for me for a number of years and it was a natural fit. I think our goal as a business has always been to be partner with our community. We have always thought of ourselves as a neighborhood restaurant and part of that includes trying to help out and give something back. Fortunately we have been successful enough to be able to host these types of things and have always had great support from our vendors like Georgetown Brewing, New Belgium Brewery and Columbia Distributing.”

Tino adds, “Our Thanksgiving meal was something we started last year. We had talked about it for a number of years and last year it just sort of came together. Kira pointed me towards Jake Weber at FamilyWorks, and we just went with it. I’m really looking forward to this year. I was really struck by how grateful and thankful all the people we had last year were. I thought it was nice that we were able to serve people in the context of our restaurant; I think our guests enjoyed it. It’s something we plan to continue to do as long as we can.”

Kira volunteered on Thanksgiving, helping to serve the 75 guests. “This wasn’t a buffet: We served our guests and got them what they wanted,” she said. “It was a really welcoming environment.”

“Chris Gerke is the owner of the Nick and he has always been the reason we try to do what we do,” Tino says. “Giving back and trying to leave things better than you found them is something he has always preached and I have embraced as well. In the end, helping to care for each other is something I believe we are all responsible for and a great reminder of how fortunate I have been in my own life. Perspective is always a good thing.”

Seattle Community Farm: A harvest slideshow

Seattle Community Farm Panorama

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!

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Honey bees at the Seattle Community Farm

This post, written by Scott Behmer, Seattle Community Farm Coordinator, originally appeared on the Lettuce Link blog.

Two honey bees

Dance of the honey bees

We recently acquired a new addition to the Seattle Community Farm. Well, thousands of new additions actually. The Seattle Community Farm is now home to two colonies of honey bees!

Honey bees, along with birds and bats, pollinate over one-third of the food that humans eat. Without honey bees it wouldn’t be just honey that we would miss, but many fruits, nuts and vegetables.

To prepare for the bees’ arrival, we built a small enclosure for the hives so people can view the hives up close without having bees fly in their faces. The enclosure also prevents people from accidentally bumping the hives.

The bees came from an apiary in California, by way of the Beez Neez in Snohomish. They arrived in a wood and mesh package that contained:

  • Three pounds of worker bees
  • One queen bee
  • Food for the bees during their travels

    Blue bee hive

    Blue bee hive

After we picked up the bee packages, we dumped them into their new hives, gave them some food to get started, and let them do their thing.

There are three types of honey bees:

  • Drones are the male bees. Every day they fly around and look for a queen bee to mate with. Drones are only a small percentage of the bees in the hive.
  • Worker bees are underdeveloped female bees. They are the majority of the bees in the hive, and they do many different tasks. The worker bees gather nectar and pollen from flowers, raise the young bee larva, and defend the hive from intruders.
  • Queen bees are fully developed female bees. A bee colony usually has only one queen bee, and she lays all of the eggs. A queen bee can lay 1,500 eggs in a single day!

Our new bees will pollinate flowers and crops in the surrounding area, provide a great learning tool, and (we hope) give us some sweet honey.

Interested in beekeeping? The Puget Sound Beekeepers Association, Urban Bee Project, and Seattle Tilth’s Backyard Beekeeping 101 class are great places to start!

A bazillion bees!

A bazillion bees!

On Kids & Carrots

This post, written by Jessica Sherrow, a Harvest Against Hunger Summer VISTA with Lettuce Link, originally appeared on the Lettuce Link blog. Lettuce Link is one of several partners stewarding original urban farmland at Marra Farm in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood.

A handful of carrots!

A handful of carrots!

Marra Farm is a place that defies stereotypes. The word ‘farm’ even takes on a new meaning when applied to our little agricultural oasis in South Park. The images associated with that word – solitary, quiet, pastoral – dissolve when you step onto our farm.

Truthfully, it can be a little chaotic. Kids from Concord International Elementary or the South Park Community Center running around; a few dozen of our 1,800 annual volunteers working and digging and planting; planes, trains and cars filling the air with that distinct urban din – it’s not at all what you would expect on a farm.

So, true to form, Marra Farm manages to do what many parents thought impossible: It makes kids love vegetables. It’s a bold statement, we know. But it’s a hard thing to deny when a 5-year-old, while pulling one carrot out of the ground and simultaneously munching on another exclaims,

I WANT TO EAT ONE MILLION CARROTS!!!!”

And when you think about everything these kids experience throughout the growing season, it makes perfect sense. They dig in the dirt and plant seeds. They water to their heart’s content, and then they watch their little plants grow.

Children's Garden sign at Marra FarmThey harvest the veggies themselves – chard, sweet peas, carrots, broccoli – and help prepare a snack especially for them. Today, it’s Chinese Veggies and Rice, and it’s a hit.

We can’t help but wonder, then, if all children are secretly veggie-lovers? It appears the only thing kids need is a little involvement in their food – planting a seed or chopping a leaf – anything to make it more fun, more exciting, and more delicious. After all, if we can get a 3rd grader to eat kale, the sky truly is the limit…

For more information on gardening and cooking with kids, check out these amazing projects: Lettuce Link’s Seattle Community Farm, GRuB: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities, Seattle Youth Garden Works, Seattle Tilth, and The Edible Schoolyard Project.

Many hands, cleaning carrots

Many hands, cleaning carrots

Support the Let’s Grow Act!

This post originally appeared on the Lettuce Link Blog and was written by AmeriCorps Member Amelia Swinton, Lettuce Link / Apple CorpsOutreach & Education Coordinator.

At an Apple Corps "Market Night," a student uses "dollars" to purchase rainbow chard.

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.

Hunger Hits Home documentary raises awareness about hunger in America

Hunger Hits Home/No Kid Hungry image

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.

Hunger Action Week 2012: What’s on your plate?

This post was adapted from United Way of King County information about Hunger Action Week, originally posted on the Cooking Matters Seattle blog.

Hunger Action Week 2012: Join the conversation about hungerUnited 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.

The need:
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!

Cole’s Big Gift

This post, written by Lettuce Link/Apple Corps AmeriCorps Member Amelia Swinton, originally appeared on the Lettuce Link Blog. Visit Lettuce Link’s webpage for more information about the program. 

This month, Lettuce Link is featuring a particularly special first-time donor. Meet 8-year-old Cole Pawlitschek. Don’t be fooled by his small stature – his generosity and insight into giving knocked our socks off.

Cole Pawlitschek

Cole Pawlitschek: a small but mighty Lettuce Link donor!

For two years, Cole reserved a portion of his allowance, chore and birthday money into a “save” jar. The nickels and dimes grew steadily, and last month Cole decided he had saved enough money to make a difference. Cole came into our office with his mom, Maya, to hand over $62 in cash and $11.87 in loose change.

Cole says he chose Lettuce Link “because I wanted to help kids that don’t have food to get some. Marra Farm grows vegetables and gives them to people for free.”

When it comes to vegetables, Cole is especially fond of steamed edamame with salt sprinkled on top. Though we don’t grow edamame (immature soybeans) at Marra Farm, we do grow several items that could be adapted into one of Cole’s favorite recipes – Mr. Egg Face Sandwiches! Radish eyeballs, asparagus mouths, frizzy lettuce hair … sounds like we’ve got a tasty treat to prepare with our garden classes this spring.

Aside from noshing on edamame, Cole can be found playing video games, doing math and reading, and participating in basketball, soccer and karate. He also makes sure to spend time with his kitten, Pluma. Cole says that his mom, dad and family are the important communities in his life, as well as Solid Ground’s Statewide Poverty Action Network and all his friends.

When asked about why he donates part of his money, Cole reminds us, “Some people in tons of places all over the world don’t have enough money to buy food or houses or beds or toys.”

These days, Lettuce Link relies more and more on the generosity of individual donors like Cole to sustain our work. His advice for adults who want to make a difference: “Grown ups can give money so Marra Farm can grow more stuff and give to people. They can also volunteer at places to help raise money and help them do their work.”

As Cole notes, there is no single way to support our work. We need all types – those who give time, money, in-kind donations, expertise and more. Alongside our diverse community of supporters, we’ll keep working to make fresh food a right for everyone! Thank you to Cole and all those who support us growing forth into 2012!

Mr. Egg Face SandwichesMR. EGG FACE SANDWICH
(from Lunch Boxes and Snacks by Annabel Karmel, adapted by Maya Pawlitschek, mother of Cole)

Ingredients (for 4 sandwiches)

  •  7 eggs
  •  ¼ cup mayonnaise or hummus – add more if needed
  •  Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  •  8 slices of bread
  • 1 can tuna and/or 1 cup shredded cheese (optional – for extra protein)
  •  Face decorations such as: sliced radishes or bell pepper, grated carrot, edamame, olives, salami, gherkins, chives, basil, peas, celery or grape tomatoes

Directions

  1. Hard boil eggs, let cool and peel.
  2. Cut two eggs into four slices each for the eyes.
  3. With a fork, mash the remaining eggs in bowl; add the tuna, shredded cheese and mayonnaise.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Spread egg mixture on four slices of bread.
  6. Have kids make faces on bread, using the sliced egg eyes and decoration ideas above.
  7. Cover with piece of plain bread and enjoy!

 

The Capitol goes orange for Hunger Action Day

(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.

Take action!
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:

Hunger Action Day, 2/3/12, Olympia, WA
Photo by Julie Washburn, Washington Food Coalition

Lettuce Link joys, challenges and new directions

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the Lettuce Link blog.

Welcome to 2012! On these gloomy January days (when we are rather glad to be warm and dry indoors instead of out in the garden), it’s a good time to pause and take stock of where Lettuce Link has been and where we’re going.

So, without further ado, here are a few of our accomplishments in 2011, made possible by the help of our generous volunteers (over 9,329 volunteer hours!) and financial supporters:

And yet, as we catch our breath this winter after a busy year, we’ve found ourselves at a bit of a crossroads. Fewer grants, budget cuts and belt-tightening measures provide an opportunity to reassess our work: What are our program’s strengths? What do we do that’s unique? How can we continue to grow and change our program to meet community needs, provide wrap-around services for Solid Ground participants, and further our anti-racism work?

These are not easy questions, but we’re committed to working through them with your support. Here are a few exciting projects to keep an eye out for in 2012:

  • Building an overhead structure at the Seattle Community Farm, which will allow protection from the elements and make the space more conducive to community gatherings.
  • Expanding our CSA project at Marra Farm, to both raise funds for our program and offer a sliding-scale subscription to our neighbors.
  • Advocating for just food policies on the city, state and federal levels. Watch the Lettuce Link blog for details in the next few days!
Thank you for your time, resources and support both this past year and as we boldly stride into 2012 – pushing a wheelbarrow and wearing our rainboots!

The Lettuce Link team – Michelle, Sue, Scott, Robin, Amelia, Mariah and Blair (with much gratitude to Molly, Kate, Andrea, Sophie and Alice – our staff, AmeriCorps volunteers and interns who have moved on to new adventures).

You are warmly invited to Marra Farm

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

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