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!

IMG_20151223_114538_1Executive Santa

IMG_20151223_104309Decorating gift cards




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.


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, 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!




“But is it local?” A Farm to Food Bank Partnership

Chubby Bunny Farm

Michael Deitering of Chubby Bunny Farm

Since July, UDFB has been placing weekly orders with the Puget Sound Food Hub. The Food Hub is a network of farms and partners operating cooperatively in the Puget Sound region to market, aggregate and distribute locally produced food from farm to restaurants, hospitals, preschools, grocery stores, universities and more. We are thrilled about this partnership that lets us offer the freshest produce possible to our customers and the opportunity to support our local farmers.

Michael Deitering, owner of Chubby Bunny Farm, is one of the producers for the Food Hub. We’ve been working with Michael to develop UDFB’s first forward contract to purchase fresh vegetables from his farm for our Home Delivery program this fall. The forward contract is an agreement between our food bank and Chubby Bunny Farm to purchase designated amounts and types of produce at a wholesale rate, in which the farmer is paid partially upfront.

Chubby Bunny Farm is in its first season, growing on two acres in Everson, WA.  The farm specializes in salad greens, and Michael is also experimenting with a variety of row crops such as brassicas, which perform well in our climate. Items our Home Delivery customers can expect to see this fall include broccoli, spinach, kohlrabi, beets, and cabbage.

Interview with Chubby Bunny Farm

The following is an interview with Michael about his introduction to farming, his role in the emergency food system, and why he values the forward contract model.

Q: How did you first get interested in farming?

A: In 2013 I volunteered at a community garden and really enjoyed it. That led me to an eight-month internship at Cloud Mountain Farm Center, which essentially taught me how to be a farmer. My passion and interest in farming was clear so I took the next logical step and Chubby Bunny Farm was created.

Q: What made you decide to partner with food banks?

A: Most small-scale farmers start out selling at farmers markets and through CSAs. I noticed that model was serving a very limited portion of society and saw there was definite potential in working with some of the great organizations in my community working to feed people.

During the Cloud Mountain internship, I was exposed to the Bellingham Food Bank (BFB) and have been volunteering there weekly ever since. We developed a forward contract for me to grow produce for BFB this fall through their Seed Money project. The project gives food banks the opportunity to get a feel for working with farmers and farmers to work with food banks, and decide if they want to continue those partnerships. The “seed money” allows farmers to purchase seeds and fertilizer when they are needed early on in the season.

In addition to growing winter squash for BFB through the forward contract model, Chubby Bunny Farm has donated 600 pounds of salad greens for food bank clients.

Q: How do you think farmers and emergency food providers can work together to improve access to fresh local produce for low-income people?

A: Building relationships between food banks and small farms is key. Farmers should reach out to their community to determine the need and how best to establish early-season crops. They [emergency food providers] can use an analytical eye to identify gaps in their donations when produce isn’t coming in and then work to fill those gaps locally.

Access to a certified kitchen with a processor and cold storage space is one strategy to preserve large quantities of crops like zucchini. Extra storage means I would also be able to save my leftovers from the farmers market and then distribute them to food banks later on in the season when fresh local produce is not as widely available.

Q: Why forward contracts?

A: Having forward contracts is really useful because they allow me to grow and manage crops more easily, as I know their end market and harvest date. This allows me to navigate resources such as time and labor appropriately.  Ideally, contracts should contain a crop mix with target percentage goals to allow for flexibility. If one crop fails, I can substitute it for another previously agreed upon crop.

Forward contracts also help develop a sense of community. For example, I correspond with the food bank throughout the season, sending photos and updates about the crops. This keeps everyone feeling engaged and makes the food bank feels like an extension of the farm, and vice versa.

Follow Chubby Bunny Farm on Facebook here.




Picardo P-Patch

image(6)The Picardo Community Garden, located in the Wedgwood neighborhood on two acres of land, was the original P-Patch in Seattle, established in 1973. The city-wide P-Patch network works collaboratively to grow plant starts, share resources and materials, and best practices among garden coordinators. In 2014, the Picardo garden donated over 4,000 lbs of produce to a few food banks, UDFB included, in Northeast Seattle.

Laura Matter, Giving Gardens coordinator for Picardo, has been a food bank customer herself and remembers receiving seemingly endless beans and rice. She knows how much fresh produce is appreciated, as well as how many people don’t have the space or capacity to grow food themselves. “Being able to supply that is really special,” she says. Laura also really enjoys growing plants and using the garden as a teaching tool for different groups. “I love watching people get excited about it.”

Laura chooses to grow crops that she considers easy maintenance like root veggies, salad greens, peas, bush beans, and squash. When making the annual farm plan, she rotates crops based on health and production of the soil, as well as targeting what is really wanted by food bank customers. Examples include beets for our large Ukrainian population and lots of Asian greens.

She’s very conscious of quality control for donated produce and makes sure to teach proper harvesting and washing techniques to volunteers, as well as use of IPM (integrated pest management) and floating row covers to prevent insect damage. Plans are underway to build a larger shed and food bank closet with a wash/pack station, and covered storage area for produce. According to Laura, this shed will help extend shelf-life of items, as well as help them get an earlier start to the season in April.

Volunteers are highly organized into groups – some are responsible for managing the 22 designated food bank beds while others coordinate gleaning or deliver produce to food banks. A few beds are adopted by individuals or groups and the rest are managed by a group of 8-10 people who work in teams to harvest and deliver produce to food banks four times a week.

In addition to the food bank beds, the students next door at University Prep have their own Kid’s Garden that donates veggies to the food bank. The garden also designates certain beds to grow vegetables for former gardeners who are no longer able to garden themselves. “[The P-Patch] is a happy place to volunteer because we’re doing something so positive,” says Laura.

The Picardo P-Patch always welcomes donations of fresh seeds, healthy plant starts, and materials like remay and burlap.