Mission and Background
The mission of Emergency Food Network (EFN) is “to provide Pierce County with a consistent, diverse and nutritious food supply so that no person goes hungry.”
EFN began as a program in 1982 when the leadership of FISH Food Banks, Tacoma Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, and Associated Ministries recognized a great need in our community to resource emergency food collectively. With guidance from Paul Bender, the Executive Director of the newly formed Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, and through the organizing efforts of Dennis Flannigan, EFN’s first Executive Director, the organization was created to serve as Pierce County’s central storage and distribution center for emergency food programs. In 1985, EFN was transferred as a program to Associated Ministries. Originally designed to meet a temporary need caused by the economic recession of the 1980’s, it became apparent in the early 1990’s that the need for such a community service had grown. In response, EFN became an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 1991.
The Pierce County emergency food system includes more than 60 food banks and hot meal sites, providing over 15 million meals annually to over 1,400,000 clients (duplicated count). In recent years, food programs have experienced an increase in the number of clients seeking services.
As the sole nonprofit food distributor located in Pierce County, many food programs are dependent on EFN for food. The majority of food is donated by farms and large corporations such as Fred Meyer, Carolina Logistics, QFC and SuperValu, but EFN also acts as a Sub-Distributing Agency (SDA) for the USDA Commodity Food Program and purchases over $500,000 in food from its general operating budget and designated accounts.
Services and Programs
Emergency Food Network (EFN) operates four distinct programs: 1) Our Distribution Center, 2) Mother Earth Farm 3) the Orchard and 4) the Gleaning Project. Our 20,000 square foot Distribution Center is located in Lakewood and is the agency’s storage, distribution, and administrative center. We host our Repack Project in this Distribution Center. The Mother Earth Farm is an 8-acre organic farm located in Orting that yields more than 150,000 pounds of fresh produce annually.
The Emergency Food Network serves more than 60 food programs in Pierce County who in turn serve a diverse population of low-income clients. Of the more than 115,000 visits from individuals seeking emergency food assistance each month in the county, 99% fall below national poverty guidelines. More than half are children and seniors and almost half are families with at least one adult working. Hunger is rarely an isolated issue and usually is a symptom of a larger problem impacting an individual’s ability to gain and maintain an adequate level of economic security. Since 1996, EFN has made a commitment to developing programs that not only provide wholesome food to those in need, but also offer opportunities to develop basic work skills in a supportive environment.
Designed and developed as an independent, local response to hunger, EFN and its programs maintain strong working relationships with the local community, statewide organizations and state affiliates of national food bank organizations with an emphasis on food resourcing, trucking, and other issues that impact food banking in our state and region. Additionally, EFN has been active in local and statewide anti-hunger, nutrition, and human service coalitions. EFN was active in the formation of, and remains a participating member in, numerous coalitions including the Washington State Food Coalition, the Washington State Anti-Hunger and Child Nutrition Coalition of Children’s Alliance, and the Pierce County Human Service Coalition.
With its combination of working farm, Repack Project, orchard, distribution warehouse, and Gleaning Project, Emergency Food Network is unique. It is one of the only non-profit emergency food distribution centers in the country capable of growing, gleaning, purchasing, storing and distributing food—taking food straight from the land to the tables of those in need.