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Good Food Bag Program and Community Kitchen: Increasing Access to Healthy Food in Seattle’s Rainier Valley – $10,000
Seattle Tilth’s mission is to inspire and educate people to safeguard our natural resources while building an equitable and sustainable local food system. Their work recognizes the importance of engaging residents as crucial actors in maintaining a healthy environment and healthy communities.
Today there is a growing awareness that the dominant food system is not serving the needs of America’s low-income citizens. Locally, in a 2011 study of low-income women in the Rainier Valley, 67% identified access to healthy food as either their first or second concern. (Women in the Green Economy: Voices from Southeast Seattle, 2011) Barriers to accessing healthy food cited included cost (67%), and availability (41%). However, solving the issue of healthy food access is not simply a matter of having a grocery store close by; a recent Penn State study found that six months following the opening of a new grocery store carrying healthy food at reasonable prices in what had been a food desert, per person consumption of fruits and vegetables had not increased. (Cummins S,2014)
Seattle Tilth’s work demonstrates that addressing healthy food access requires a holistic approach that involves making food more affordable, more available, and increasing the ability of people to prepare food in ways that are easy and appealing, as well as increasing their understanding of how their food choices impact their health and that of their families. In 2013,they partnered with the City of Seattle Human Services Department, Seattle/ King County Public Health, and local community based organizations in Southeast Seattle to tackle healthy food access head on. Through their Good Food Bag (GFB) program, Seattle Tilth provided 200 unduplicated families with over 5,000 pounds of nutrient dense produce at community gathering spaces
Our grant will enable Seattle Tilth to significantly expand the Good Food Bag over 2014 and 2015 and address each of the areas identified above that together make a positive impact in improving healthy food access:
Affordability: Good Food Bags contain enough fruits and vegetables to feed a family of four for several days. The market value of the Good Food Bags is about $20.00, but only cost participants $5.00 each, a price point that is reachable for all families. They are able to subsidize the cost of the produce by purchasing 3/4ths of the produce at-cost from their own food hub, Seattle Tilth Produce, and in part, through contributions from the United Way.
Availability: Since proximity and accessibility is absolutely critical for a succesful program, Seattle Tilth built partnerships with child care centers and senior centers as Good Food Bag distribution points. Their primary partners in 2013 were Tiny Tots Development Centers, with four sites serving 300 families in Southeast Seattle, and the Southeast Seattle Senior Center. Parents and seniors sign up for Good Food Bags each month, and the cost of the bags are added to their monthly bills or dues. The Good Food Bags are available on a weekly basis, and in the case of the child care families, parents simply pick them up when they pick up their children. By locating distribution of the Good Food Bags at places people already need to be, while keeping the price low, bringing fresh produce home is an easy decision for families.
Ability and Appeal: Seattle Tilth understands that getting people to take a low-priced bag of nutrient-dense, locally and sustainably-grown produce home only gets part way to the ultimate goals of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in order to improve health. People need to have the confidence and the desire to actually prepare and eat the produce. They are using a three-pronged approach to accomplish this:
- Recipes: Each Good Food Bag includes recipes that use that week’s produce. While all recipes have been vetted by our on-staff registered dietitians, they also need to be easy and quick to make for busy families, as well as delicious.
- Community Dinners: Seattle Tilth hosts monthly community dinners in the neighborhoods where Good Food Bag purchasers live. Each dinner is an opportunity for residents to come together to cook and share a meal. Community dinners are led by skilled cooks, and the emphasis is on intuitive cooking of family style meals from scratch. Participants report an increase in skill and confidence, and are more likely to attempt to cook unfamiliar vegetables at home.
- Staff Training for cooks at the child care centers: Kids who are reluctant to try new foods can be a barrier to a home cook’s willingness to prepare a variety of vegetables. To increase children in participating families’ familiarity with vegetables and leafy greens, Seattle Tilth partnered with Tiny Tots to train child care cooks and staff members to give them a stronger foundation in nutrition principles, and increase their skills and confidence in using fresh produce in their meal preparation.
PCC Farmland Trust
Buy-Protect-Sell/Lease program $12,936
As the population of the Puget Sound region continues to grow, our valuable environmental resources are being challenged. Central among these is the region’s prime farmland. With its excellent soils, drainage, and flat, level fields, farmland is particularly appealing to residential and commercial development. With the average farmer’s age now at 58 years, the American Farmland Trust estimates that approximately 70% of our nation’s current farmland will change hands in the next 15 years, providing a critical window of opportunity for conserving our local prime farmland for future generations. The Puget Sound has a rich agricultural heritage, community support for small working farms, and excellent farm-to-market access. While our region has experienced a lull in the real estate market in recent years, it is showing signs of building steam again, and our fertile valley land is once again in high demand for non-farm uses. Paired with this, agricultural land values have been steadily on the rise since 2002. We expect an increase in the number of Puget Sound farms up for immediate sale, and for prices to continue to be sharply out of line with what new or beginning farmers can afford.
The heart of our work is to keep farmland available and affordable for sustainable and organic farmers, agro-ecologists. The traditional land trust tool centers on buying a conservation easement. Buying a conservation easement puts funds into the pockets of the current farmland owner and in exchange the land is forever conserved: the development rights are removed from the property and the property value is typically reduced, also forever. In this way conservation easements help keep farmland affordable to the next generation of farmers. When a land trust finds a farmland owner who is willing to sell a conservation easement, the trust applies for a set of public grants from state, federal, and county governments. Once that money is in hand the trust proceeds to buy the conservation easement.
PCC Farmland Trust has learned there are some basic marketplace practices that purchasing a conservation easement does not address. First, the most threatened farmland is often in the hands of retiring farmers with no succession plan. Farmland owners who cannot continue to farm want to sell outright, not sell a conservation easement – even if they are heartsick about seeing their land developed. Then, there is the wait, for years, while the government funding is assembled. Finally, when using public dollars the price of the acquisition is no longer negotiated – the value is set by a rigorous appraisal – no less and no more.
PCC Farmland Trust is implementing a new strategy to protect imminently threatened Puget Sound farmland more quickly. We found the most promising idea in those land trusts that practice a buy-protect-sell approach to valuable working land. This entails identifying threatened farm properties, that is, farmland likely to change use, and endeavoring to buy it
as quickly as possible. Funds from this grant will enable the Trust to engage outside expertise to recommend a method or methods to collect, spend and revolve more capital for farmland acquisition and sale. By engaging a qualified business planner familiar with social impact and nonprofit endeavors, the Trust plans to develop a useful business plan for a farmland acquisition working capital fund. This business plan will assess potential fund sources for what will likely be a blended fund, using individual and foundation philanthropy, financial institution lending, and possibly impact investors. PCC Farmland Trust’s goal is to increase their financial sophistication to obtain and apply new sources of capital in the commercial real estate market, recognizing that a primary function of the Trust is to keep farmland affordable for the farmers who will steward it as tenants and buyers.
For more information on the need to expand conservation easements to keep land affordable for new farmers, read the National Young Farmers Coalition September 2013 publication titled “Conservation 2.0: How Land Trusts can protect America’s Working Farms”. (Note: that local farmer on the cover is Dan Hulse, owner of Tahoma Farms, farming on land he purchased in Orting Valley in 2010, just after PCC FT acquired an agricultural conservation easement there.)
Edmonds Community College Dept. of Horticulture
Funds will be used to build and document best Aquaponic farming practices for our climate. $9,364
The college has an active Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAgE) program with two aquaponic units (unit = pond and raised planting beds) for student instruction, research, and food production. The Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAgE) program is a National Science Foundation supported collaborative based in the Horticulture Department at the college, with Seattle Central Community College and Skagit Valley College as partners. The mission of the collaborative program is to provide whole systems training in sustainable, biointensive urban and small farm agriculture relevant to the Puget Sound bio-region. The SAgE curriculum is applied training in whole systems, urban agriculture and food systems enterprise operations including food hubs. There is specific crop production training in vegetable, herb, and cut flower crops; fruit, nut, and berry crops; and a combination of fish (perch, tilapia, and/or trout) and green crops from an aquaponics system.
Aquaponics is the integration of recirculating fish culture with hydroponic plant production. In fish-only aquaculture, nutrient-rich water is removed from the system and discharged to the environment on a regular basis to manage nutrient levels within the system. In aquaponics, this nutrient-rich water is seen as a commodity instead of a waste, and is used to grow plants. The plants feed on and filter fish waste and, in return, the fish feed on a portion of the plant material. This recirculating process supplies nutrients for each crop component at prescribed steps in the system while also providing for water purification at intermediate steps — an elegant and utilitarian closed loop, sustainable system for crop and protein production.
The advantages of aquaponic culture include:
- sustainable water use – the water is used very efficiently to grow two crops – fish & plants;
- zero environmental impact – no nutrient-rich waste-water discharge, the fish food is used to its maximum potential (to grow fish & plants);
- two crops from one input – the fish feed entering the system supports the growth of both fish and plants;
- small footprint/high density – because of their compact nature, facilities may be located very close to the end users (restaurants, green grocers, food manufacturers, public) in a variety of locations (country, city);
- alternative source of fish protein in the face of natural source contamination and decline.
Click here to watch an informative video on aquaponics, or visit the Growing Power model pioneered by Will Allen in Milwaukee, WI for more information.
Citry Fruit – 2014 Grantee
Bringing Residential Fruit into the Local Food System $9,700
Residential fruit trees in Seattle produce thousands of pounds of edible fruit, most of which falls to the ground and rots. In King County, 99,000 kids eat nutritious meals at school as part of the free and reduced-price lunch program. When school’s out, kids can eat for free through the federally funded summer meals program. But only 1 in 7 Washington kids takes part in the summer meals program, ranking our state 40th in the nation in participation. And overall, 1 in 5 kids is still at risk of hunger. Meanwhile, new data show that 19% (1 in 5) of the children in King County are food insecure. This represents a significant gap in the local food system.
City Fruit connects the dots. Over the past five years City Fruit has harvested more than 50,000 pounds of fruit from residential trees and channeled it into the emergency food system. The proposed project will pilot a plan for creating a more sustainable harvest by selling some of the fruit into Seattle markets. The project will develop new markets for Seattle-grown fruit, research pricing, work out supply logistics, and create an implementation plan for future years. The ultimate goal is to build an urban harvest that successfully monetizes a small portion of the fruit in order to donate the remainder.
In 2014 City Fruit has one-time support from the City of Seattle to harvest 15,000 pounds of fruit and donate all of it to food banks and meals programs. With support from Sustainable Path Foundation, we propose to harvest an additional 4,000 pounds of fruit and use it to develop a marketing plan that would allow us to harvest and donate fruit in the future on a more sustainable basis. Through this project City Fruit will:
- Harvest an additional 4,000 pounds of fruit that can be sold to local markets;
- Develop markets (restaurants, valued-added producers, canning clubs, CSA’s) and sell the 4,000 pounds of fruit;
- Create a pricing policy that maximizes return on fruit and social benefits;
- Develop a business plan that spells out a financing mechanism to support the harvest and donation of fruit in 2015 and beyond.
Science and systems thinking. The recent focus on local food systems strives to reduce carbon emissions in the food sector. There is much to do in this regard. Fruit, for example, is currently grown on large orchards, kept in cold storage until prices rise, and transported long distances. Consider this example: In August a local consumer-owned natural food store in Seattle, sells pears imported from Argentina even though similar pears are being harvested on orchards in Eastern Washington and by City Fruit down the street in Seattle. Why? Because Eastern Washington fruit growers prefer to store their pears until the price of pears rises, and the store doesn’t have the capacity to deal with small local distributors like City Fruit.
City Fruit believes that Seattle-grown fruit should be an integral part of the local food system. It has less distance to travel. It’s cheaper. Its source is well-known. And perhaps most important, per square foot of footprint, fruit trees produce more edible food than vegetable gardens and row crops; this is an important consideration in dense urban environments. The proposed project will take concrete steps toward bringing Seattle-grown fruit into the local market economy.