As a health educator at the Sea Mar Community Health Centers clinic in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood, Sonora George is responsible for teaching patients about the links between eating habits and chronic diseases like diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension. But she’s the first to admit that education alone isn’t enough.
“A lot of the patients, it’s great that they know about it, and they’re educated about it, but it doesn’t matter if they don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables,” Sonora says.
So every Tuesday morning this summer, staff at Sea Mar’s South Park clinic set up a small farm stand on the sidewalk along 14th Avenue South offering free fresh tomatoes, kale, zucchini, and other vegetables to patients and anyone else who wants them.
The produce – a total of 1,129 pounds – was grown by Solid Ground staff and volunteers less than a mile away at our Giving Garden at Marra Farm. The ¾-acre Giving Garden primarily serves as a site where Solid Ground’s Community Food Education teaches people about gardening, nutrition, and the environment.
The Giving Garden produces more than two dozen different kinds of vegetables, all of them distributed at sites around South Park. The residents of this isolated neighborhood, which is sandwiched between two freeways and the polluted Duwamish Waterway, live under food apartheid* with little easy access to grocery stores and fresh fruit and vegetables. The neighborhood is also 46 percent Hispanic or Latino, and 28 percent of its residents live under the poverty line.
“We’re thrilled to be able to partner with Sea Mar to provide fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables to the community alongside food education,” says Neo Mazur, Solid Ground’s Community Food Education Manager. “This is what our Giving Garden is all about.”
Sea Mar, a longtime Solid Ground partner, has dubbed its farm stand “FARMacia,” a play on the Spanish word for pharmacy as well as the idea of food as medicine. It was open every Tuesday this summer, from 10am to 12:30pm or until the vegetables ran out – and they often did. The farm stand became so popular that some patients began requesting appointments on “veggie day.”
Sea Mar hosted its final FARMacia for the summer at the end of September, but staff plan to bring it back again next spring. “People love it. Everyone keeps trying to pay us and we’re like, ‘No, it’s free!’” Sonora says. “It’s really cool – everyone is so thankful.”
Want to help us grow food and build community at Marra Farm? Learn more about volunteering as a Marra Farm Giving Gardener with Community Food Education!