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.

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

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,


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.

Anti-hunger crusader Billy Shore visits Solid Ground

SOS Executive Director Billy Shore chats with Claire Leamy, who directs the Cooking Matters program for Solid Ground

National anti-hunger leader Billy Shore just stopped by the Solid Ground offices to meet a few of our own anti-hunger crusaders and share some of his wisdom from 25 years of working to feed America. Shore is founder and executive director of the national organization Share Our Strength, which has partnered with Solid Ground programs for 17 years, including Cooking Matters (formerly Operation Frontline), Food Security for Children and others. Shore is in Seattle for an appearance tonight at Town Hall promoting his new book, The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men, about the quest to defeat malaria.

While hunger continues to grow (Seattle food banks served 75,000 unduplicated families this year, up 10% from the year before, and the third straight year of increases of 10% or higher!), Shore is optimistic: “the issue is not that we do not have solutions to these very difficult problems,” he said, the issue is making the solutions “affordable, sustainable and scalable.”

In addition to creating model programs and funding mechanisms that have been replicated in communities throughout the country, Shore is a vigorous advocate for utilizing the resources available through the federal government.

“I am hopeful by nature,” he said, “but this particular point in our nation’s history tests that a lot. One of the advantages that we have is that we are involved with a lot of programs that work.” While there is plenty of evidence of waste and fraud in government programs, the food programs Shore advocates for “are effective, change people’s lives and return (resources) back to the economy.” Shore specifically mentioned the school Summer Meals and School Breakfast programs, which have received bi-partisan support and funding from the federal government, but which states have not fully exploited. Money remains available to access these programs. “Even if the programs are cut somewhat, we are still far from the ceiling,” Shore said.

Detangling the Farm Bill – part 2 (a history)

Editor’s Note: The urban agriculture experts at Solid Ground’s Lettuce Link program are detangling the federal Farm Bill in a series of posts. We are reposting Amelia Swinton’s post here to help get the word out.

Author’s Note: This is a macro-history of U.S. farm policy organized around the price and income support programs for farmers and conservation initiatives that have been retroactively labeled “farm bills.” Though nutrition assistance programs do account for more than half of our present Farm Bill’s budget, these are not the principle focus of this post.

rows of wheat and combine

Putting the "dust" in industrial farming

Our story picks up in 1933, when rural economies across the United States were caught in a downward spiral. Under conditions of extreme heat and drought, desperate farmers overworked land to squeeze out maximum yields, bringing prices down and further wrecking the land (to become the Dust Bowl). Recognizing that an unregulated market was depressing the rural sector, the Department of Agriculture proposed several safety nets to be funded by taxpayers under The Agricultural Adjustment Act (read: our very first farm bill). This act set a price floor for agricultural goods so that farmers were guaranteed fair pay for their products. It also set up a system to store grains so they wouldn’t flood the market and depress prices during harvest season. Finally, soil conservation policies funded farmers to leave land fallow and to protect finite groundwater reserves.

World War II brought enormous international demand for American food, and as market prices in the agricultural sector skyrocketed, conservation programs were abandoned to meet demand. However, the government’s main role was still to limit production and champion farming interests over big business — that is, until the 1970s and true industrialization of agriculture under the “get-big-or-get-out” mantra of Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz.

Deeming conservation policies anti-business, Butz ordered all arable land into production.  Skeptics remembered the Depression’s disastrous experience with overproduction, but Butz calmed fears through free trade agreements that opened foreign markets for the vast surpluses that American farmers were now generating. The food stamp program provided another avenue for the Department of Agriculture to unload the extras — onto the plates of hungry Americans.  Crop yields of the 70s truly dwarfed those of earlier eras thanks to noxious cocktails engineered by companies like Dow and Monsanto, who rerouted the chemicals they had produced for the Vietnam War onto American farmland. Retooled “subsidy” programs (funding from the government to make an industry economically viable) grew certain calories — namely corn and soy — cheaper than ever before. Meanwhile, funding for so-called “specialty crops” like fruits and vegetables remained minimal, and methods of cultivation devastated land and water systems. These subsidies continue to provide the animal feed to keep meat and dairy cheap and have spawned an era of foods largely processed from derivations of corn.  Small-scale, sustainable farmers are indebted and unsupported — and we’re losing them.

And so the curtain opens on the food landscape we see today. Congress authorized nearly $300 billion for the 2008 Farm Bill, which continues to favor industrial over sustainable farms, quantity over quality, and processed foods over whole ones. But at least it’s cheap, right?

Amidst compounding crises of diabetes, obesity, and environmental degradation, nearly everyone is paying dearly for low-cost food.  So next time, we ponder: Where exactly do those $300 billion go (and where do they not)??

Thanks for reading, and please consider supporting Lettuce Link this holiday season as we continue to envision a city with fresh, nourishing, and affordable food for all.

Detangling the Farm Bill (from the urban ag experts at Lettuce Link)

Editor’s Note: The urban agriculture experts at Solid Ground’s Lettuce Link program are detangling the federal Farm Bill in a series of posts. We are reposting Amelia Swinton’s post here to help get the word out.

 Since you’ve wound your way to Lettuce Link’s corner of the blogosphere, it’s safe to say that you have a stake in how we interact with food in this country. Maybe you’re fed up with high prices at farmers markets, alarmed by skyrocketing rates of diabetes, or just totally grossed out by what kids eat in their school cafeterias. Regardless of your motives, we probably all agree that many of our food policies have broken.

Workers on a farm.

Sustainable farming. Photo courtesy of Grow Food (c) 2005 (see link at bottom)

Over the next few months, this series will set out to situate our frustrations in specific policies, budgets, and farms so that we can understand why dinner tables look like they do. Cause eating has become political, and the health equity of our edible landscape will be determined by how we choose to consume it.

So! We’ve got our work cut out for us. The star of this series is a web of legislation called the Farm Bill that determines the funding and  policies for food and agriculture in the United States.  Rolling in at nearly 1,300 pages of dense legal jargon, our aim here is to pick (pieces of) it apart so that we can put them back together in a healthier, more equitable, and tastier way.
This is the first post of our Farm Bill series, which will be oriented around the following questions (& any others you suggest!):
  1. What did the Farm Bill originally aim to do? What does it do now?
  2. How does the bill influence spending and policies?
  3. Who does the bill affect?
  4. What type of agriculture does the bill promote?
  5. How does the bill affect our nation’s schools: nutrition education, fitness initiatives, lunch offerings, and garden projects?
  6. Can we discuss the language of food, especially terms like “organic”, “sustainable”, “agribusiness”, “obesity”, “food deserts”, “commodities”, and “eating well”?
    So that we can eventually sink our teeth into a much juicier question:
  7. How can we reform the bill to support a food system that is just, affordable & nourishing, from seed to table?
We hope that this series helps cut up the formidable Farm Bill into pieces that we can actually chew. Anyone who’s ever heard Sue McGann’s epic introduction to Marra Farm has learned that the interconnections between agriculture, food, health, immigration, and foreign aid are shocking.
So, keep voting with that fork, keep recognizing the political charge of each bite. Things taste a whole lot better that way.
We’ll update you with meeting information for the Community Alliance for Global Justice’s Farm Bill Action meetings. Until then, you can investigate their wealth of online resources at .

Photo courtesy of Grow Food (c) 2005.

Fruit harvest wrapping up, thanks to our volunteers!

Asian Pears

It’s been a slower year for fruit in the Pacific NW, and so also for Lettuce Link’s Community Fruit Tree Harvest. The harvest has brought in fewer plums, but more apples and pears than last season, according to harvest coordinator Sadie Beauregard. Nevertheless, the fruit that volunteers have harvested and donated this season has been greatly appreciated by hungry families and individuals who received it through a variety of organizations. Including:

North Helpline, Sandpoint Family Housing, St. James Cathedral Family Kitchen, U-District Food Bank, Downtown Food Bank, Mary’s Place, VOA Greenwood, Ballard Food Bank, Hopelink Shoreline, Providence Regina Food Bank, Family Works Food Bank, CAMP Food Bank, Food Bank at St. Mary’s, St. Martin’s on Westlake, Loyal Heights Community Center, Silvercrest Senior Center, Union Gospel Mission, and Wallingford Senior Center.

It’s also been exciting to hear from past fruit donors who are harvesting their own fruit and making sure it gets donated. If you are interested in starting up your own fruit harvest effort, please see our free Fruit Harvest Handbook for advice!

Thank you for all of your volunteerism this past season – scouting, harvesting, donating, and organizing – we couldn’t make the fruit harvest happen without you! A big thank you to Elaine Corets, Morgan Nomura, Jeff Clausen, Chelsea Davis, Kalila Jackson-Spieker, Steve Gall, BJ Hedahl, Frances Posel, Tracey Marsh, Steve Gisel, Marni Sorin, Barb Burrill, Jan Foster, Maureen DiGiacomo and Hillary Moore for helping to organize harvests and orient new volunteers.

And special thanks to Sadie Beauregard who has coordinated the harvest over the past two summers! Sadie’s term as an AmeriCorps VISTA member with Lettuce Link is over. Thanks for all your work, Sadie! We’ll have another coordinator lined up in time for the next harvest.

Thanks, Sadie!

Community Fruit Tree harvest needs you!

Apples for Providence Regina Food Bank, South Park


As of August 24, Solid Ground’s Community Fruit Tree Harvest volunteers have harvested 1,530 pounds of fruit – mostly apples and Asian pears. The fruit has gone to a variety of organizations, including Mary’s Place, U-District Food Bank, Ballard Food Bank, CAMP Food Bank, Providence Regina House Food Bank, Hopelink Shoreline and our Sand Point Family Housing. A big thank you to those harvesting, scouting, organizing and donating! 

For folks who are picking on their own, we’ve updated our Where to Donate fact sheet. For meals programs and housing units, it’s a good idea to call ahead and verify that they can process your donation. Note, few locations are open over the weekend – North Helpline is a good option for Saturday mornings. 

If you would like to assist with a harvest, contact Sadie Beauregard to get put on the harvest email blast list. Then just reply to the emails announcing a harvest or trees that are ready for picking! If you’re not comfortable getting things sorted out on your own but would like to pick, let Sadie know. We’ll get you set to pick and out harvesting. Make sure to let her know what you harvested, how long it took, where the fruit was donated, and how it went!

Operation Frontline in the news

The Fremocentrist blog ran a nice column about our Operation Frontline program, which helps folks who are living on low incomes get cooking skills and nutritional education so they can feed their families in a healthier way. Check it out! 

Strike Out Hunger 2010: Good fun in the fast lanes

The Strike Out Hunger Bowl-a-thon raises money to help Solid Ground’s Food Security for Children (FSC) program feed thousands of infants and toddlers — and supports other Solid Ground efforts to end poverty. On March 27th, 150 people had a blast bowling to strike out hunger! We’re still tallying the amount raised, but we know it will go a long way to support families and children through these difficult economic times. The West Seattle Herald published a short piece highlighting the event.

The Pinkies

Our extra-spirited teams included:
  • The Big Lebowski’s Hunger Action Team
  • Finance Kids Team
  • Google
  • Mini but Mighty
  • Not A Number
  • Pinkies
  • Selena’s Guadalajara
  • Team Paul Haas
  • Team Bridget Perry
  • The Untouchables (Advisory Council)
  • Verity Credit Union

And many thanks to our In-Kind Sponsors!

It’s not too late to give to the Bowl-a-thon! Click here to Strike Out Hunger NOW! Interested in participating in next year’s Bowl-a-thon? Please contact Anna Ramos at 206.694.6857 or

Rest in peace, Mary

Mary looking out her windowEveryone who met Mary Rolfe was touched by her. For while Mary wore the discomfort of her life on her sleeve, she beamed with appreciation for those who helped break down the isolation and pain that had become her everyday reality.

As a client of Solid Ground’s Partners in Caring program, Mary received bags of groceries delivered to her door, and participated in activities we coordinated at Seattle Housing Authority’s Harvard Court building, where she lived. And, perhaps most importantly, she was the recipient of genuine caring from our staff and volunteers, a human connection that seemed to be her lifeline.Mary's special book case with spiritual figurines

But all that was not enough. A few weeks ago, Mary succumbed to her physical and emotional pain and took her own life. Those who knew her understand the struggles that may have led her to this point, but we are all deeply saddened by her passing and what it says about the state of our community.

Following is a brief video that features Mary talking about Partners in Caring. We are touched that the program participants helped you to feel human, Mary. We are sorry it wasn’t enough. God bless…

Strike out hunger!

Food bank patrons with young children

Paciano Salvador, father of Isis and Ileen (not pictured) picks up a Toddler Bag, filled with nutrient-rich food aimed for kids’ growing minds and bodies, at a local food bank. “It helps a lot. Especially right now in this economy,” he said.

With job losses and foreclosures continuing to mount and unemployment benefits in jeopardy, thousands of once-stable people are turning to local food banks to help make ends meet.

Low-income parents of young children often face an even greater challenge—making sure that their kids have access to healthy, nutrient-dense foods, as well as supplies like diapers and infant formula, during this period of economic uncertainty. Many are forced to make unfathomable choices every month: Food on the table or money for rent? Pay the utilities or buy gas to get to work?

Sadly, healthy food is often the first thing to go. Studies show that diets lacking in vitamins and protein put children at greater risk for cognitive impairments and emotional and behavioral problems later in life.

Solid Ground’s Food Security for Children program helps ease the burden a bit for these parents by supplying Seattle-area food banks with nutritious, kid-friendly foods, like tuna, peanut butter, oatmeal, fruits and vegetables, and essential infant supplies, including formula and diapers.

You can help feed the most vulnerable in our community by participating in the Strike Out Hunger Bowl-a-thon on March 27 at West Seattle Bowl. Register early (by March 5) and be eligible for prizes. Registration deadline is March 19. Details are on our website.

Please come join us for this fun-filled and meaningful way to get involved in feeding hungry people!

Nurturing urban agriculture

The City of Seattle has declared 2010 “The Year of Urban Agriculture” and launched a year-long series of public events yesterday, starting with a day of activities with one of the gurus of urban ag, Will Allen of the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Growing Power.

Will Allen at Marra

Will Allen & Lettuce Link's Michelle Bates-Benetua at Marra Farm

Allen, whom the NY Times described as a “farmer of Bunyanesque proportions,” is a man with his hands deep in the soil, a gentle giant and 2008 MacArthur Genius Award winner who has come into a national leadership role in the movement for food justice. 

Our partners at Lettuce Link posted this report of his Seattle visit on their blog, Will Allen at Marra Farm, by Michelle Bates-Benetua, Lettuce Link Program Manager:

The Lettuce Link crew and a few long-time volunteers got to show off our Giving Garden at Marra Farm yesterday to Will Allen! Will is founder of Growing Power, recipient of the MacArthur Genius Award and a long-admired hero of mine. There are so few real-life heroes in this world that I don’t take that word lightly. He has shown the world a model of urban agriculture that feeds people, engages the community, creates jobs and transforms the lives of children and youth.    Continue reading

How you can help people who are hungry

Not Cool: This week, the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) released a report that confirmed food hardship, or the inability to buy enough food, is not only a problem here in Washington State, but a growing crisis nationally. The report culminates nearly a year of surveying and interviewing hundreds of thousands of families across the country in 2009. In Washington State, the report shows the nearly 1 in 5 families could not afford enough food in 2009. For us here in the Hunger Action Center at Solid Ground, this only confirmed what we already suspected: During this recession, families have to make tough financial choices between food, housing and making ends meet.

The FRAC report shows us that there were more hungry families in 2008 than in 2009, and intuitively we know that there are going to be even more hungry families and children in 2010. One of our close partners in hunger action, Linda Stone, senior food policy coordinator at the Children’s Alliance, commented on the report by stating, “[It] confirms that the recession is taking a heavy toll on families across Washington State, and the number of kids who spend their days hungry is on the rise. Our state and national lawmakers need to make it a top priority to protect meal programs that keep our children well nourished and ready to learn.” Feeding hungry children by protecting Washington State meal programs is certainly one of the many, and most important, strategic steps in helping reduce the number of hungry families, but we need more. Continue reading

New Community Farm sprouting up at Rainier Vista

From our partners at Lettuce Link, Rainier Vista: Giving Garden Update in Southeast Seattle

The January sky lightens up a bit, and all of us at Lettuce Link are preparing for the spring ahead. With the help of the Department of Neighborhoods, the Seattle Housing Authority, and other community partners, we are working to transform half an acre in the Rainier Vista neighborhood in a giving and teaching garden. 

Location of new Communty Farm

Location of new Communty Farm


Aerial view of location of new Community Farm

Aerial view of new Community Farm location


Modeled after Marra Farm, the Seattle Community Farm will be a space for low-income residents of Rainier Valley to grow food for themselves and to share with the Rainier Valley Food Bank. While the garden will focus on food production, there will be many chances for gathering, celebrating, and learning. Garden education opportunities will be available throughout the growing season — seed saving, children’s gardening, and food preparation workshops are all being considered. 

Street view of site of new Community Farm

Street view of site of new Community Farm


Artist's rendering of new Community Farm at Rainier Vista

Artist's rendering of new Community Farm


Lettuce Link’s VISTA Members, Jamie Robinson and Leslie Heimer, are coordinating outreach activities in and around Rainier Vista — asking neighbors what they would like to grow, how they would like the garden to look, and how they will be involved. We are particularly interested in hearing ideas for celebrations and community gatherings that can take place in the garden. When neighbors come together to break bread (or chard or broccoli for that matter), strong communities can take shape. 

If you are interested in being involved in the Seattle Community Farm, please contact Jamie or Leslie at There will be many opportunities to share your ideas, or just to get your hands dirty. 

Bagging up cash to fight hunger

Cool:  Patrons at the Interbay Whole Foods can donate their $.05 Bag Refund to Solid Ground’s anti-hunger programs from now through April 11, 2010.

The cash register reminder to donate your Bag Refund to support Solid Ground.

Donations can be designated to one of three Solid Ground programs:

  • Apple Corps, which fights the root causes of obesity, malnutrition and hunger in underserved communities and supports nutrition and physical activity programs, policies and partnerships at Seattle Elementary Schools. 
  • Lettuce Link, which creates access to fresh, nutritious and organic produce, seeds and gardening information for families with lower incomes and educates the community about food security and sustainable food production.
  • Operation Frontline, which coordinates and trains volunteer chefs and nutritionists to teach six-week classes on nutrition, healthy cooking and food budgeting for individuals at risk of hunger and malnutrition.

Last Fall, Whole Foods donated proceeds from their Community 5% Day fundraiser to Operation Frontline! We appreciate the continued partnership and support!

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