Puget Sound Food Network announced in July our involvement in a new and unique Farm to Table project designed to cater to some of Seattle’s most underserved senior citizens. This pilot project will make fresh, healthy foods accessible to seniors by bringing local produce straight from local farms to limited-access (low-income and/or home-bound) seniors through home-delivered and congregate meal programs. PSFN was funded by a Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grant through the Healthy Eating/Active Living (HEAL) Community Grant Program of City of Seattle-King County Public Health. As a project partner, PSFN will collaborate with Aging and Disability Services (ADS), Senior Services, Catholic Community Services (CCS), Chicken Soup Brigade, the King County Housing Authority (KCHA), and the WSDA on this exciting project. By arranging cooperative purchasing agreements among these partners and local food producers, the project will help ensure availability of fresh, nutritious, local produce to seniors while remaining within existing budgets of our meal-provider partners. If the project is successful, there is potential to apply the Farm to Table model we create to other institutions, such as low-income childcare centers.
Since notification of funding in July, PSFN has attended the first two Farm to Table Partnership meetings, working with project partners to identify preliminary challenges, brainstorm solutions, and begin an initial assessment process to evaluate readiness of meal-provider sites. PSFN has also attended the first CPPW Coalition meeting (a meeting of all the recipients of HEAL and Tobacco Prevention CPPW grants) to share resources and brainstorm techniques to address public heath challenges in our community.
With its CPPW funding, PSFN has hired two new, full-time staff people to work exclusively on the Farm to Table Partnership. Though PSFN is only one of many Farm to Table partners, PSFN’s new staff members are the only two members of the team who are 100% dedicated to the Farm to Table project. These two staff members will work together to do what PSFN does best: make the connections between local producers and food consumers! Karen Mauden, PSFN’s new Farm to Table Coordinator, will serve as a “benevolent broker,” identifying able producers, making introductions and creating relationships between producers and meal-provider sites, arranging purchases and cooperative purchasing agreements, and coordinating distribution and delivery of produce. Karen comes to PSFN with thirty-six years experience in managing purchasing systems and distribution networks. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Foods & Nutrition from Washington State University, owned her own foodservice brokerage for sixteen years, and is a co-owner of the Houser family dairy farm in Sedro Woolley. Her experience prepares her extraordinarily well for the business and agricultural sides of this Farm to Table project. Emma Brewster, PSFN’s new Farm to Community Coordinator, will provide support for Karen, helping to identify producers, assessing meal sites, tracking sales, and providing the administrative support for the project. Emma comes to us as an AmeriCorps Volunteer through Washington Service Corps’ SCORE AmeriCorps Team based in Mount Vernon. Emma holds a Bachelor of Science in Development Sociology from Cornell University, where she focused on the social aspects of rural agriculture and pubic health. Emma’s background working with social and human services and on public health projects gives her a good grounding in the social and health challenges this Farm to Table project aims to tackle.
Still in the early stages of development, the Farm to Table project is gathering steam. An initial WSDA assessment of meal-provider sites is underway, the Farm to Table partners are enthusiastically sharing creative ideas to address logistical challenges, and Karen has begun identifying potential producers for the project. This is a very exciting opportunity for PSFN to use our resources and apply our expertise to a very worthy initiative in a way that serves local food producers, satisfies the PSFN mission, and aligns with our values of feeding people in need.
If you’re a food producer and would like to get involved with this project, or are just interested in learning more, please contact Emma Brewster at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: (360) 336-3666 or Karen Mauden at email@example.com.