Those weeds don’t stand a chance!

JBLM squadron 627 CS/Cobras was at Mother Earth Farm last week for another weeding party! They sure are keeping up with the weeds in their three rows of Bright Lights Swiss Chard and even made a sign with a cobra on it, how cool is that?













Girl Scout Troop 40519 weeded their rows of kale in record time! This group knows how to use teamwork to get the job done, looking forward to seeing this superfood continue to grow!













Tacoma-Kenrick #2 Rainbow Girls have sure made that swiss chard happy! They were at Mother Earth Farm over the weekend weeding and adding compost to their rows.

Adopt-a-Row groups have plants in the ground!

JBLM squadron 627 CS/Cobras has planted three rows of swiss chard! They checked in last week to weed their rows and add compost.














Girl Scout Troop 40519 planted three rows of kale last month and were just out at Mother Earth Farm on Saturday to keep their rows free of weeds!












Tacoma-Kenrick #2 Rainbow Girls have planted three rows of swiss chard and will be back at Mother Earth Farm this week to weed, weed, weed!


One caring person can put a dent in hunger

by Helen McGovern-Pilant

People have a lot of misimpressions about hunger. Many think it’s associated only with homelessness when it also affects working families, kids and seniors. Hunger is often invisible, but it exists in our neighbors’ homes, our schools and our workplaces.

“Food insecurity” is a term developed to describe households that are financially stretched to the point where they cannot be certain that all members will have enough to eat.

Pierce County residents experiencing food insecurity made 1.3 million visits to food pantries and meal sites in 2016. Fifty four percent of recipients were seniors and working families with children. The number that continues to go up at an alarming rate is seniors — up 30 percent in the past five years.

Approximately 60,000 children in the Pierce County school system receive free or reduced-price lunch. Some also receive breakfast. When school is out, the majority of these children will not have access to the summer meal programs that are dotted throughout the county.

May is Hunger Awareness Month in Pierce County. At Emergency Food Network, we want you to be aware of these facts as you see the many ways you can make a difference. You can join us in providing the food that will be needed when more families, your neighbors, make extra trips to the food pantry.

We distribute more than 14.8 million pounds of food each year to our pantries and meal sites. That is equal to 25 semi-trailers a month.

But there is always something just one person can do to make a difference.

You can plant an extra row in your garden and take that food to a food bank. You can make a cash donation. You can register your fruit trees with Harvest Pierce County’s Gleaning Project, and someone will come and harvest the excess.

On May 13, the morning of the annual Letter Carriers Food Drive, you can leave a bag by your mailbox. If your donation can be just one item, please consider a protein such as peanut butter or tuna. If it can be more, add stew, canned fruit or vegetables, or baby formula.

Our network’s mission statement reads: “Providing Pierce County with a consistent, diverse, and nutritious food supply so that no person goes hungry.” For the last six years, we have purchased six food items — rice, beans, oats, canned fruit, canned vegetable and a frozen protein — to distribute alongside the government and donated food we already receive.

The one food group lacking is dairy. With your help, we will be adding dairy items to our purchased product list. The monies we raise from this month’s 2017 Hunger Walk & 5K Run will help launch that addition.

You can form a team with neighbors, family or co-workers and join hundreds at Fort Steilacoom Park for the walk and run on May 20.

There is so much we all can do. What we cannot do is ignore food insecurity.

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.