As the woman walked through the lobby of the Sea Mar Community Health Center in White Center, her attention was caught by a tray of cups filled with bright-red beet hummus topped with a slice of cucumber. Hesitantly, she picked one up and tasted it.
“What do you think?” Michael Friedman, Community Food Education Manager at Solid Ground, asked from behind the table.
“Really good!” the woman responded.
“Would you make it at home?” Michael asked.
“Absolutely!” she said, picking up a printed recipe sheet and heading to a long table covered with boxes of fresh vegetables, including nearly all the ingredients she would need to make the hummus at home.
This was the scene on a recent Friday at FARMacia, a growing collaboration between Solid Ground and Sea Mar designed to bring fresh, healthy food directly to people in Seattle who struggle most to get it. Every week, Solid Ground Community Food Education staff pack up freshly harvested vegetables grown at our own Giving Garden and other partner farms and deliver them to Sea Mar’s clinics in White Center and South Park, where they’re set out on tables for anyone who wants them – like a free farm stand.
“Last week all the produce was gone within 45 minutes,” says Maddi Rinehart, a Health Educator at Sea Mar. “It just goes to show how great the need is.”
FARMacia – a play on the Spanish word for pharmacy and the idea of food as medicine – started in 2021 at Sea Mar’s clinic in South Park, a low-income neighborhood with no grocery store or consistent source of fresh fruits and vegetables. It was so popular among patients at the clinic that in 2022, Solid Ground expanded the program to the White Center clinic and began buying produce from other local farms to meet the need.
This fall, Solid Ground expanded FARMacia further by offering samples of healthy foods that people can make at home with the produce they take with them. Solid Ground and Sea Mar staff collaborate to develop the recipes, which are available in both English and Spanish.
“I love having something that people can try and take with them along with the recipe,” Maddi says. “We’re encouraging people to try something that maybe that they haven’t before, or inspiring people to use the produce in another way.”
In addition to beet hummus, the program has featured a massaged kale salad with pumpkin seeds, a cabbage salad with parsley dressing, and flavorful green beans. As the weather cools, staff plan to provide samples of braised red cabbage, glazed winter squash, and vegetable stew. All of the recipes are low in sodium and sugar, and relatively easy to make.
“Our goal with most of the recipes we’ve chosen is to have them low on equipment needs and low on ingredient needs, ” says Sarah Benson, a Farm Market Assistant at Solid Ground. “Ideally, if you’ve got a countertop and a knife, it’s something you can prepare.”
The goal is also to teach new techniques that make produce more delicious and accessible. Massaging kale, for example, makes it less bitter so it can be eaten raw, like in a salad.
“A lot of people won’t eat kale because they’re just like, ‘I don’t know what to do with this,’” Sarah says. “So, we’re like, ‘Here is a simple way to prepare this and make it more comfortable.’ The idea is to give folks a chance to taste something they maybe haven’t before – and maybe introduce a new vegetable in their diet.”
All the dishes are also seasoned with herbs rather than just salt and sugar, which some patients at Sea Mar are looking to avoid. Many of the patients Maddi works with have chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Others struggle to get enough food to eat.
Having FARMacia in the lobby means Maddi can send patients home with the food they need to be healthy and ideas for how to cook it.
“People really do rely on it as a resource,” Maddi says. “It’s great to have.”
FARMacia is funded through grants from PCC Community Markets and HealthierHere, as well as individual donations from the Solid Ground community. To support FARMacia and other Solid Ground programs, go to Ways to Give – and learn about opportunities to Volunteer at Solid Ground’s Giving Garden at Marra Farm.