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.

IMG_4324 Edit

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.”

IMG_4321 - Edit

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.

Advertisements

Community Report 2012: ‘Breaking the cycle of generational poverty’

Solid Ground's Community Report 2012

Solid Ground’s Community Report 2012

Hot off the press! Solid Ground’s report to our community on our 2012 work and accomplishments is now available. “Breaking the cycle of generational poverty” reports on recent impacts we’ve made in our community. But it also highlights the long-term positive change our programs can have in the lives of the people who access our services, and the ripple effect this has on their children’s lives.

As Solid Ground approaches our 40th anniversary, we remain focused and committed to our mission to end poverty in our community, and to help our society become one without racism and other oppressions.

Our engagement in this work is only possible through the support of passionate and committed employees, donors, volunteers, and government and nonprofit partners. With this continued support, we look forward to working ever more purposefully to help families and individuals overcome the challenges of living in poverty and progress to a place of thriving.

Feel free to share “Breaking the cycle of generational poverty” with others who may be interested in our work. If you’re not already on our mailing list and would like a hard copy of the report mailed to you, please email your mailing address to publications@solid-ground.org.

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

Senate passes Farm Bill: So now what?

(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.

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.

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

Threats to food security for immigrants and refugees

(Editor: This post originally appeared on the Lettuce Link. blog, and was authored by our ace AmeriCorps member Amelia Swinton.)

Small child with appleNot Cool: Record numbers of Americans are going hungry. Forty-two million citizens and recent immigrants are currently receiving SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) due to persistent unemployment and rising food costs. And while $300 million in stimulus money has improved food security for those eligible for SNAP benefits, recent immigrants and refugees do not qualify for this crucial source of aid.

Thanks to the Washington’s State Food Assistance (SFA) program, those who meet the federal income criteria can receive look-alike benefits funded by the state. Formed in 1997 as a response to federal legislation that denied benefits to hungry people without permanent residency, SFA serves 14,000 people—including 1,300 children and 2,000 elders. Because immigrants must establish five years of residency before applying to SNAP, this important program tides them over while they build capacity and stability in a new place.

But this program is at risk. A dwindling state budget means severe cuts to all social service programs, and the Department of Social and Health Services has proposed that the Governor cut this program from her budget this spring. Without SFA, immigrant and refugee families would be stripped of their food security, further threatening the health and growth of their communities.

A coalition has developed that includes anti-poverty, anti-hunger, and immigrant rights organizations as well as community-based organizations of color. Leading this effort, the Children’s Alliance has made this issue one of their four legislative priorities during the upcoming session of the Washington legislature, which begins in early January. If you want to join the effort, contact their lobbyist, Jen Estroff. We’ll provide future opportunities to take a stance on this issue in support of healthy, food-full communities across our city.

%d bloggers like this: