2016 Legislative Priorities / Join us in Olympia!

As of Monday, January 11th, the 2016 Legislative Session is officially underway. While the session is expected to be a short one, 60 days, it’s imperative as ever that we advocate for legislation to protect and strengthen the safety net for our underserved neighbors. As service providers, this also means empowering our fellow staff, volunteers, and customers to share their stories before our legislators around issues of hunger, housing, homelessness, and more.

Not sure where to begin? Here is a guide for legislative priorities from the Washington State Anti-Hunger and Nutrition Coalition and an invitation to join us at Hunger Action Day on January 22nd at the Capitol.

  • Anti-Hunger and Nutrition Coalition’s 2016 Legislative Priorities:

Expand Access to School Breakfast in High Need Schools:

Washington ranks 43rd out of 50 states in serving breakfast to low-income students. School breakfast legislation will require very high need schools to offer breakfast in the classroom, grab and go, and second chance breakfast to almost 175,000 low-income students.

UDFB is proud to provide weekend meals and snacks for over 450 students at ten Seattle Public Schools through our Packs For Kids program. We support Breakfast After the Bell legislation to fill meal gaps during the school day so students have the opportunity to succeed.

Restore the Promise of the Local Farms, Healthy Kids Act for Washington’s Kids, Schools, and Farm Economy:

Restoring $250,000 to WSDA’s Farm to School and Small Farms/Direct Market Farms programs will strengthen connections between farmers and local schools and markets.

UDFB actively sources fresh produce from local farms and food hubs for our Home Delivery program and walk-in food bank. We believe strongly in building relationships with local farmers to improve nutrition and strengthen our community.

Protect Investments in Nutrition, Health and Economic Stability for People in Need:

UDFB supports the protection of funding for services including school meals, Basic Food/State Food Assistance, Emergency Food Assistance Program, Farmers Market Nutrition Programs, Housing and Essential Needs Program, and the Aged, Blind, or Disabled Cash Assistance Program, and more.

These critical services make up the safety net many of our customers rely on to meet their basic needs. The Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP), helps ensure that food banks have the resources they need to meet local needs – from food purchasing to transportation to staffing and equipment.

Fix Our State’s Tax System to Preserve and Restore Critical Services

UDFB supports Anti-Hunger and Nutrition Coalition’s position on a balanced, sustainable state budget that includes new sources of revenue and that reforms out tax system in order to protect, strengthen, and restore services that help low-income families to meet their basic needs.

Anti-Hunger and Nutrition Coalition’s annual lobbying event, Hunger Action Day, will be held on January 22nd. Meet with your legislators and let your voice be heard! Find more info and register here: http://www.wsahnc.org/annual-lobby-day/#.VnRjJ7YrLs0

  • For updates and calls to action throughout the session, follow the Washington Food Coalition on Facebook and sign up to receive their e-newsletter: http://www.wafoodcoalition.org/

Winter Wishes 2016

IMG_20151223_112125 Each Holiday season, UDFB partners with University Village for their Winter Wishes program. Food bank customers fill out wish lists for their children written on tags, which are hung on trees at U-Village. Individuals then select a tag and purchase the items, which are picked up by the food bank and distributed to families the day before Christmas Eve. This year, we received gifts for 75 families.

Marc and Rene Therrien have been volunteering for the gift distribution for 14 years, leading the event for most of that time. They first got involved when their daughter Ellie was 10 year old and part of the Pioneer Girls at University Presbyterian. The Therriens responded to a call for volunteers, and now 14 years later, Ellie confidently instructs new volunteers on their system. “It’s the one thing as a family, where we’re able to get outside of ourselves and give back,” Marc explains. “It’s also important for us to give our kids this experience, for them to interact with people they wouldn’t ordinarily meet.”

Each year, the Therriens rally volunteers, mostly family friends, to help organize and distribute gifts to food bank customers. This years’ group was the largest yet, with over 20 volunteers. Volunteers enthusiastically moved throughout the UCC Social Hall, matching gifts with their respective wish lists, distributing other donated items such as hand-knitted hats, gloves, and scarves, bagging them up, and retrieving bags when their owners arrived to claim them.

Elise Graue has been volunteering for Winter Wishes with her family for five years. “My favorite part is when the families arrive and we’re able to see their joy when they receive the gifts, and the impact we’re making,” she says.

We’d like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all who fulfilled Winter Wishes gift requests, the Therrien family, and their team of volunteers for helping the distribution run smoothly.  Thank you for bringing some holiday joy to food bank kids this season. Happy holidays!

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Home Delivery: Meet our Customers

Home Delivery is one of our fastest growing programs at UDFB. The program began in 2010 to serve those in our community unable to access the food bank due to advancing age, medical condition, or physical disability. Participation in Home Delivery has doubled over the past three years. Thanks to our amazing volunteer drivers, we now serve 85 households on six different routes, delivering an estimated 1,400 pounds of food per week to our homebound customers in Northeast Seattle.

Will

Volunteer Home Delivery drivers

Will has been on Home Delivery for three years. He lives in low-income housing and has a limited budget to spend on food, in addition to medical problems that make it difficult for him to access a grocery store or food bank.

“The food I receive through Home Delivery has been really helpful in rounding out my weekly groceries, and has made a big difference in my diet.” He’s particularly noticed the increase of fresh, organic vegetables in his box these past few months, since the food bank started purchasing from Puget Sound Food Hub. “The extra produce has made me get creative with my cooking. Now I make a lot of soups and stews, and started putting greens in my smoothies.”

When I asked Will how UDFB has affected his life, he responded, “Home Delivery makes Wednesdays important. I focus on prepping and storing the food I receive, and then planning out how I’ll use items throughout the week.” Like many of our customers, Will is resourceful in finding recipes for some of the less glamorous vegetables. When he received kohlrabi in his box, he researched recipes and found simple, versatile ways to prepare it. “Having food delivered has been a godsend,” he says.

 

 

 

Randy

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Randy, a recipient of Home Delivery

Randy has been on Home Delivery for about a year. Randy is a disabled veteran who moved to Seattle from New Orleans five years ago. Randy stays true to his Cajun heritage through his love of cooking. As a participant in Cooking Matters classes through Solid Ground, Randy taught his peers how to make seafood jambalaya and gumbo.

“The Food Bank has been a real blessing, not just for me, but for all of us receiving boxes,” he says. Randy especially enjoys the fresh fruits and vegetables we are able to provide him with each week, and added that the choices are always improving. “Being on Home Delivery has been a positive experience,” he says. “I really appreciate the work the food bank has done.”

Farmers Market Vouchers

logoDid you know the food bank distributes $10,000 worth of Farmers Market vouchers to our customers each year? Through our partnership with the Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance (NFMA), every food bank customer is eligible to receive monthly vouchers equivalent to $6 during the peak growing season, or late June through the end of November, when the maximum amount of produce is available. Vouchers improve access to fresh, local produce to those who need it most, as well as supporting small-scale farmers in our community.  This program also allows us an opportunity to give back to the Farmers Market and thank them for their abundant food donations throughout the year.

UDFB has a longstanding relationship with the NFMA and has been gleaning leftover produce from the U District Market every Saturday since the market’s inception in 1993. This partnership is made strong by our amazing volunteers willing to help collect produce each weekend and our local farmers wanting to participate and give back. Each year, volunteers help us glean between 12-14,000 pounds of fresh vegetables from the market.

Farmers Market vouchers can be used at the U District, Capitol Hill Broadway, Columbia City, Lake City, Phinney, Magnolia, and West Seattle Farmers Markets. This offers flexibility to our customers by allowing them to shop at one of seven markets in the city which may be closer or more accessible to them than the food bank. Vouchers also offer a discreet and culturally appropriate way for our customers to make their own choices about food rather than being dependent on what the food bank has available on a given day. And their vouchers can be combined with food stamps and the bonus fresh bucks program to increase their buying power.

Anna Sparks, Outreach and Development Coordinator at NFMA, sees these vouchers as an important incentive to get people to come out to the market, and a way to support local food and farmers while expanding access to healthy food. We are so grateful for this important partnership with the Farmers Markets and look forward to future collaborations!

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Our First Period Packing Party

By: Kailin Mooney 

“The fact that menstruation is a taboo topic to begin with, means that people who are able [to] help, often aren’t even aware that such a vast need exists.”

Robyn asked if I would consider guest blogging about a visionary benefit house party we both attended a few weeks back. This particular event was a first for UDFB – a volunteer coordinated drive for feminine hygiene and baby products that coincided with an open community repack party hosted by two of our community members.

Adela and Mern were disheartened after reading a recent article written by Eleanor Goldberg for the Huffington Post, which exposes the heartbreaking difficulties facing homeless women each month. In her article, Goldberg points out, “The fact that menstruation is a taboo topic to begin with, means that people who are able [to] help, often aren’t even aware that such a vast need exists.” In response, Marian and Adela reached out, inspiring over 30 people to donate and repack tampons, pads, menstrual cups, and larger sized diapers! They even had baby wipes to add to each package of diapers and unused make-up, tooth brushes and toothpaste to add to the feminine hygiene bundles.

At UDFB, feminine hygiene products are highly sought after and are a rare donation. Customers often quietly scan the shelves behind our check out stations for signs that we might have pads or tampons before quietly requesting them for themselves or family members. Relief is clear when we have items to provide. Thanks to Adela, Mern and all of the donors and volunteers who participated in their event, our shelves were stocked throughout the month of October, and we expect, will remain so well into November.

Our gratitude runs deep. People who see a need and take action keep our doors open, our shelves stocked, and our hearts full. Thank you Adela, Mern and our incredible community of supporters for all you do for UDFB each and every day. We couldn’t do this work without you.

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