Good Food Bags Boost Nutrients & Access

By Jessica Bitting, Seattle Tilth’s Food Hub Coordinator

Within five miles of Rainier Beach Urban Farm & Wetlands, our educational farm in Southeast Seattle, 51% of the population has low access to fresh food, according to the USDA’s Food Access Research Atlas.

That scenario is why Seattle Tilth is working to make healthy food more accessible and affordable. Our Good Food Bag program is doing exactly that — delivering fresh, local and organic produce to communities in South Seattle and King County, where families often lack adequate access to grocery stores.

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Who’s Getting Good Food?

Parents of young children take home Good Food Bags when they pick-up their kids from places like Tiny Tots Development Center, a childcare facility where 85% of the families are eligible for free or reduced childcare. East African elders receive Good Food Bags in a work trade helping out at  Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands, a partnership with Horn of Africa Services.   In 2013, we distributed 1,500 bags and more than 5,000 pounds of nutrient-dense produce to 200 families through youth employment programs, after-school programs, youth summer camps, senior centers, community kitchens, churches and others.

What’s In a Bag?

In addition to increasing access and affordability, Good Food Bags makes preparing and eating fresh produce exciting and culturally relevant. Our weekly bags contain a variety of fruits, vegetables, greens and an aromatic — a culinary herb or something from the onion family. Each week, we include a recipe with nutrition information. Countless members have shared how excited they are to try the recipes each week, or to cook vegetables they’d never eaten before! Here’s a story from Tiny Tots:

When doing outreach, I bring a blender and make green smoothies to share with potential customers. It’s always a huge hit with the kids, even though they see me putting kale and spinach into the smoothies! A few months later, a grandmother was trying to decide if she could still afford the $5 GFB in her weekly budget. She was taking a walk with her granddaughter who saw a kale plant in someone’s yard and her granddaughter asked “Grandma, can we make smoothies?” At that point, the grandmother knew that she had to keep purchasing the Good Food Bags for her family.

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Where’s the Food From?

The food in our Good Food Bags comes from two of Seattle Tilth’s educational farms:  Seattle Tilth Farm Works  in Auburn and Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. We also source some food from other regional organic producers in order to provide a diverse selection each week. Purchasing food from Seattle Tilth Farm Works supports training and support for new, immigrant and limited resource farmers.  At  Rainier Beach Urban Farm & Wetlands, produce is grown by volunteers, interns, neighbors and participants in our East African Elder Farming program. Diverse connections like these deepen client interest in the program and community benefit.

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2014 STFW farmers.

What’s Next?

We’re committed to continue offering Good Food Bags at a price point that’s accessible to people with limited financial resources. By keeping the costs low, and maintaining a reliable delivery schedule and consistent quality, our customers can depend on fresh, delicious food every week. Soon, we will be offering an EBT/SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) payment option , which will make Good Food Bags available to even more people. The Good Food Bag program is just one component of the Seattle Tilth Produce food hub, which works to increase access to healthy food for everyone.

Our staff is working to grow the Good Food Bag program by participating in a rapid development course in Sustainable Food Agriculture and Sustainable Business offered by The Health Enterprise Development Initiative (HEDI). The course is a training program for entrepreneurs creating companies that promote healthy eating and active living, along with other organizations that support health for consumers, suppliers and communities. Find out more about what we’re working on with HEDI on Slow Money NW’s blog!

Get Involved

Interested in helping out with the Good Food Bag program? Contact Jess Bitting at jessicabitting@seattletilth.org.

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4 responses to “Good Food Bags Boost Nutrients & Access

  1. Pingback: HEDI Update: Good Food Bags Explores New Business Models | Slow Money Northwest·

  2. What a shame this program and it’s good food isn’t available to poor people everywhere. There are people of every color and ethnic heritage, citizens and recent arrivals alike, who need this. (Hint: look at a map of subsidized housing–there are plenty of po’ folks who live north of Yesler & the CD.

    I can walk to a Farmers Market and a RapidRide that goes by a Whole Foods–doesn’t mean I have “access” when the prices aren’t in my budget.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, YUNiMN — yes, of course we’d love to be everywhere in the city! We are growing as fast as we can and don’t plan to limit our work to the neighborhood described in the blog post. One challenge we face in continuing to grow our Good Food Bag program is securing a sustainable source of funding to subsidize the fresh produce, so we can keep the bags affordable. Another challenge comes from the limited capacity of our staff and current infrastructure (cold storage space/transportation/etc). These are all things we are working to address, so that we CAN, eventually offer Good Food Bags to other communities in our region. Thanks for your support.

    • Another great way to work towards better food access for everyone all over Seattle is by supporting and using programs like Fresh Bucks – a doubling program for EBT dollars at the Farmers Market. The City of Seattle is also involved in making Good Food Bag programs happen all over the city. They can always benefit from hearing all of our voices, asking for more support for Good Food Bags city-wide.

      Thanks,
      Chris Iberle
      Seattle Tilth Food Hub Manager

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