Solid Ground staffs the Seattle Food Committee (SFC), a coalition of Seattle’s food banks that come together for monthly meetings to discuss how to improve the emergency food system. As a group, the committee collects data on the status of food insecurity and collaborates to monitor changes, create solutions, and test models which will yield the best service.
According to Nikki Hurley, one of our Food System Support employees who staffs SFC, “Several of our food banks have been making deeper connections with clinics and have clinics above – so that you come in for food and can also get mental health addiction services as well.”
SFC and partner coalitions successfully advocated for the creation of the city’s new Community Connectors program that provides fully funded staff positions on site at the service providers. These employees connect clients with other services they may need. Another unique feature of the committee is that it coordinates the purchase of bulk buy food for the majority of its members.
“We have a bulk buy program, which allows us to purchase large quantities of food with a much lower rate. We purchase those foods through shared grants, which we get by existing as a committee,” says SFC Co-chair Esther Magasis.
While the food banks decide what to purchase as a collective, Food System Support arranges transportation to distribute the food to each bank. This program is also in charge of administering each meeting, and tasks include taking notes, updating the SFC website, and collecting and distributing relevant information.
Nicole King, Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) Program Manager at Salvation Army Food Bank, says, “Having a solid place and a hub where we can connect all this information, that’s what Solid Ground has provided. Without folks really facilitating the communication among all of these food banks and networks, a lot of stuff gets missed.”
To the food banks, Food System Support serves as an invaluable resource, enabling their work in the committee to be so successful. It connects each food bank with resources they need and answers any questions they may have about the EFAP contract, the state funding given to food banks, or any other miscellaneous questions that come up.
According to Joe Gruber, Executive Director at the University District Food Bank and longtime SFC member, “Solid Ground has helped us as a coalition look at things operationally. But at the same time, they’ve also asked us and provided resources and the vision to have a collective conversation about more broadly: What does the issue of hunger look like in our community? Who’s affected, how are they affected, how is it disproportionately carried by communities of color? How can we all be better at responding to the issue?”
Over the years, Food System Support has not only helped food banks with day-to-day tasks, it has also cultivated conversations around racial justice and cultural competency. In the past, it has arranged quarterly trainings for members that included topics such as anti-racism and how to address the increase in hate speech directed toward food bank customers, volunteers and staff.
“Solid Ground has helped us amplify our voice and make sure that we are using language that is effective and appropriate to have conversations with community members so that they can speak out on our behalf,” says Joe.
With effective advocacy, the SFC is able to reach more members of the community and drive changes in the emergency food system. Read more about their work on the Seattle Food Committee website.