Solid Ground’s food programs work with children, families and community groups to support healthier places, communities and stories. We recognize that hunger and health disparities exist not due to lack of sufficient food, but to inequities built into the food system which disproportionately impact communities of color.
Through our Community Food Education programming (cooking and nutrition classes in schools, gardens and community organizations) and our Food System Support efforts to build equity in Seattle’s emergency food system, our food programs work with communities to break down barriers to leading healthful, thriving, independent lives. Across all of this work, we challenge ourselves to use an anti-oppression lens to build more equitable systems and healthier communities.
Equitable access for all
Solid Ground works with people experiencing food insecurity to learn about, access and cook healthy foods on a budget. Of the 3,000 people who access our Community Food Education programs each year, 70% are people of color.
Community Food Education Coordinator Phoenica Zhang says, “We believe that food work which ignores dynamics of race and poverty – and the root causes of food insecurity and health problems – can do more harm than good.”
“We explicitly encourage conversations about inequities that exist within the food system, and help people take initial steps to advocate for themselves.” – Community Food Education Coordinator Phoenica Zhang
So our Community Food Educators start early, teaching 6-week cooking and nutrition class series for 2nd–5th graders in three South Seattle schools. The concept of food justice is hard enough for adults to wrap their heads around, let alone children – so framing is important.
Students talk about barriers families may face in accessing fresh and healthy foods, and learn tips to help work around them. They learn how companies market unhealthy foods to kids – and how it’s possible to eat healthfully on a budget. Concepts are reinforced at Family Market Nights, where each family gets “Market Money” to “buy” fruits and veggies to take home.
AmeriCorps Member Neli Jasuja says, “My favorite part of teaching nutrition and cooking is seeing the students’ genuine and enthusiastic curiosity – to observe them exploring new foods and flavors, reconnecting with food as nourishment, and questioning the food system they’ve inherited all together.”
With adults, Phoenica adds, “We work to build confidence in cooking and shopping for foods to help people lead healthy lives – in whatever way works for them. We explicitly encourage conversations about inequities that exist within the food system, and help people take initial steps to advocate for themselves.”
So what exactly is ‘food justice?’
The crux of food justice is the right to community control over and access to affordable, fresh, culturally relevant foods that people want to eat – especially for low-income and communities of color with the least access. The USDA defines lower-access communities – or “food deserts” – as ones where at least 500 people (or 33% of the population) live more than a mile from a supermarket or large grocery store with healthy, affordable food options. (1)
We know great disparities in access exist right here in King County, WA, where people of color disproportionately report running out of food (38% of Latinx and 21% of Black households, but only 7% of White households). (2) As a result, food-related health problems like diabetes are significantly greater in lower-income neighborhoods where food deserts are more common. (3)
Collaborations for long-term change
On a systemic level, our Food System Support team works within the emergency food system to provide on-the-ground, logistical support and training – striving to bring an anti-oppression lens to Seattle’s emergency food providers. We staff and support the Seattle Food Committee, a coalition of Seattle food banks that advocates for equity in food bank distributions and culturally relevant foods for food assistance programs.
In schools, we work with students, families and staff to change or strengthen policies and systems within the school to encourage health and wellness.
And at our Giving Garden at Marra Farm in the South Park neighborhood, where nearly 70% of residents are people of color (4), we offer field trips, summer sustainable gardening classes, and a work/trade program where neighbors who volunteer can take home fresh vegetables. We also collaborate with nearby neighborhood organizations to bring childcare classes to the garden, and last summer we piloted a fresh food project with physicians to bring produce directly to Sea Mar Community Health Center clinic patients.
Kathleen Penna, Hunger & Food Resources Director, sums up our overarching goal: “We want to move beyond assisting people only during times of crisis, but to truly and equitably support people in their efforts to build and maintain their own healthy, thriving lifestyles.”
This is the lead article from Solid Ground’s April 2018 print newsletter. To sign up for email updates, Groundviews Blog email notifications, or to receive the print newsletter by snail mail, visit our Get News & Updates page.
2) The Gnawing Hunger of Race by Jeanny Rhee, Real Change, July 8, 2015
3) Diabetes-related Deaths, King County, 2010-2014 average
4) Statistical Atlas: Race and Ethnicity in South Park, Seattle, Washington (Neighborhood)
Photo Collage at top: