Mobilizing the Emergency Food System in Pierce County

The most effective way to address issues within a community is to work together. That is exactly what happened when Emergency Food Network and other community leaders met with United Way of Pierce County in early 2015. By engaging in dialogue in the same room, we were able to identify the gaps in our food system that could be filled through teamwork. It quickly became clear that sharing resources and collaborating could bring all of Pierce County to a better place.

In June 2015, United Way of Pierce County invested $147,403.35 to help Emergency Food Network purchase three refrigerated vans complete with insurance. So far, these vans have been shared by Emergency Food Network, St. Leo’s Food Connection, and Peninsula Community Foundation to mobilize healthy food around the county. By sharing the vans, each organization is able to meet more transportation and food preservation needs without incurring the entire cost of one of these vans on its own.Refrigerated Van

Drop-off Sites in Key Peninsula
On Key Peninsula, public transportation and car ownership are hard to come by and it is hard for many community members to travel to a centralized location to pick up food. The refrigerated van helps Peninsula Community Foundation bring healthy food to the people in need. Without the refrigerated van, transporting healthy and fresh foods would not be possible.

Saving Time, Money, and the Environment
Emergency Food Network picks up semi-trucks full of staple foods on a weekly basis. However, it is not always easy and practical to pick up smaller loads of food using a semi-truck. By using the refrigerated vans, EFN is able to increase the amount of donated perishable food we pick up, save money on gas and reduce the impact on the environment.

Summer Meals
Thousands of children in Pierce County rely on free or reduce price lunches at school every day. However, when school is out for summer break St. Leo’s Food Connection steps in to fill the gap, providing summer meals to children in need. During the rest of the year, they use the van as part of their mobile food bank transporting fresh foods in a safe manner.

Filling Stomachs, Not Landfills
With the purchase of the refrigerated vans, Emergency Food Network has also been able to design a program in partnership with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department to rescue prepared foods from businesses and institutions and deliver them to hot meal sites around the county. Hospitals, universities, casinos, and other large food preparers tend to throw away excess food that they are not able to serve, contributing to the huge percentage of food waste that gets sent to landfills. Now, EFN is working to pick up this food and deliver to the places where people need it most. Not only is this eliminating food waste, but it is also increasing the amount of food available for hot meal sites to serve.

Thank you to United Way of Pierce County for investing in Pierce County’s emergency food system.

Break Bags Provide Food to Low-Income Families with Students

Break Bags Logo 1The Emergency Food Network and the St. Leo Food Connection are partnering on a new program – BREAK BAGS – that will provide low-income families with students in the Clover Park and Tacoma Public School Districts with food for the upcoming spring break.

Thousands of children in Pierce County School Districts rely on free and reduced-fee meals during the school day. When holiday weeks arrive, these kids often struggle to get enough

nutritious food at home.  The St. Leo Food Connection has been providing two-days worth of food for children in Tacoma and Lakewood schools every Friday through the school year since January 2008, but until now has not been able to provide larger bags of food for families over extended school breaks.

“We are often asked what we do for the extended school breaks.  Until now the answer has been nothing.  Partnering with the Emergency Food Network is allowing us to help bridge the nutrition gap that occurs when children are not able to access school meals,” said St. Leo Food Connection Director Kevin Glackin-Coley.

The Emergency Food Network is providing food for the program, and volunteers will be packing the Break Bags (donated by Schnitzer Steel) at their Lakewood warehouse on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 26th. Helen McGovern, Executive Director of the Emergency Food Network noted “there are so many wonderful organizations providing baskets during the holidays.  Our goal is to provide them with an opportunity to spread that same generosity out over the entire school year.  There will be a hands on activity for donors and the money that they may now be spending on one basket will provide food for an entire week for the same families.  Win-win!!”

The 500 bags will include fresh produce as well as shelf stable staples such as rice, pasta, beans and peanut butter and will be delivered by St. Leo Food Connection and Emergency Food Network volunteers to the partner schools for students to take home on March 28th.  Partner schools include 5 Clover Park (Lake Louise, Tillicum, Dower, Custer, Lochburn) and 7 Tacoma (McCarver, Blix, Roosevelt, Sheridan, Larchmont, Birney, and Lister) Public Schools.

The need for the program is highlighted by a 2013 report from the Children’s Alliance that estimates that 440,000 children in Washington, or 25%, live in households where there’s not enough food for everyone to eat.  The report also noted that hunger is growing more rapidly in Washington than in most other states.  Hungry children suffer from health problems such as unwanted weight loss, fatigue, headaches and frequent colds.  They are more likely to be ill and absent from school and typically cannot concentrate or do as well as others when they are at school.

Documentary on hunger to screen in Tacoma, Emergency Food Network to lead discussion


“A Place at the Table,” a powerful new documentary that investigates and proposes solutions to incidents of hunger experienced by millions of Americans, will be screening at The Grand Cinema from May 3-May 9, 2013.

Emergency Food Network and Immanuel Presbyterian Church are co-sponsoring a post-film discussion following the 4:20pm screening on Sunday May 5. The discussion will be led by Helen McGovern, Executive Director of Emergency Food Network, and will draw connections between the film and work being done to address hunger in Pierce County.

“The hunger-related challenges facing Tacoma/Pierce County are essentially the same as those being faced by communities all over the country,” says McGovern. “This film promises to invite audiences to join an important on-going conversation about local hunger and maximizing resources.”

Tickets are available at and more information about Emergency Food Network can be found at

Non-perishable and canned food donations will be accepted at each screening.

For More information about the “A Place at the Table” and please contact (253) 593-4474.

For more information about Emergency Food Network please contact (253) 584-1040.


CANCELLED: A Game of HORSE at Mother Earth Farm? Draft Horses take on PLU Hoops Team

CANCELLED due to the weather.

Draft Horse Plows to prepare Mother Earth Farm for planting.

What’s one of the first steps required to get 150,000 pounds of fresh, organic produce to local food banks? Plowing the soil, of course.

But who best to plow the soil, a team of draft horses, or a team of Lutes basketball players and their coaches?

We’ll tip off the growing season properly with a battle to determine which species is superior, the horse, or the college basketball player. Will the draft horses plow more ground, or will 13 Lutes and their coaches?

matty_20120407051On April 6 from 10am until 3pm, teams of drivers and plow horses from Hames & Tugs Draft Horse Club will compete against the PLU Lutes Basketball team to see which group can plow the most land at Mother Earth Farm. Their competition will have the added benefit of helping to ready the field for spring planting.

Emergency Food Network operates the 8-acre Orting farm, managed by staff member Canyon Little. This annual event exemplifies the spirit of the program. Mother Earth Farm grows more than 40 varieties of vegetables, as wells as fruit trees. Bees are kept on site to pollinate, and their honey is collected for distribution as well. Vegetables grown at Mother Earth Farm are harvested and delivered fresh to area food banks on the same day that it is harvested.

Attendees are encouraged to bring weather-appropriate clothing like boots, gloves, and raingear, a sack lunch, a camera, and chair to sit on. Be there to witness feats of strength and farming that will be talked about for generations!!

Emergency Food Network provides 14 million pounds of food to 67 food banks, meal sites, and shelters annually. An average of 115,000 clients visit feeding programs in Pierce County each month. Eighty percent of all emergency food distributed in Pierce County comes from EFN.

Directions to Mother Earth Farm

From I-5 north or south—Take Hwy. 512 (to Puyallup) and follow signs east to Highway 410 East (Yakima/Sumner) exit. Follow 410 to second Sumner exit (Valley Avenue/Orting-Highway 162); and turn right at stoplight at end of exit ramp (toward Orting). Drive approximately 1.9 miles (past Alderton and Spooner Farms) to 102nd. Look for gravel road on left—Mother Earth Farm sign will be at entrance to 102nd. Farm is at the end of the gravel road on the right. Look for the parking signs.

Mother Earth Farm
15208 102nd St E, Puyallup 98374

Click here to view the event page!

Vote for Mike Mowat of FISH Food Banks!

Vote for Mike Mowat to represent our state at the National Jefferson Awards in Washington D.C.

Click here to vote for Mike Mowat! Your vote combined with the judges’ vote will help determine which Jefferson Awards winner will represent Washington State at the national ceremony. You are only allowed one vote per person. Voting closes Monday, March 25, 2013 at midnight.

Mike knew there was a way to provide food assistance with dignity to low income neighborhoods that had limited or no access to a food bank. As a volunteer board member for FISH Food Banks of Pierce County, he knew the challenges that many families were facing and he wanted to find an innovative solution that did not require bricks and mortar, but could also serve people in an inside space to shield them from cold and rainy weather. After conducting research on different mobile food bank models, he realized that the best solution would be a moving van that was converted into a foodbank on wheels. In June 2011 Mike, with a cadre of volunteers, spent months converting the van with shelving, lights, heat, a freezer and a generator. Every day Mike stocks the food shelves to make sure they have enough food to distribute that evening and every Saturday he washes the trailer – he even drives the truck and trailer to each site. Currently this food bank is located in five different sites Monday through Friday. It is able to go where there are the greatest demands. He has fostered partnerships with three of the local school districts to host the food bank after school. Schools were chosen because they are located in neighborhoods, many in low income areas, and they have parking lots.