This Saturday, the City of Seattle kicked off its Summer Food Service Program for Seattle children. The program helps ensure recipients of free or reduced-price school lunches have access to nutritious daily meals when school is not in session over the summer months. This year, PSFN Member Maltby Produce is selling fresh produce to the program.
PSFN is ecstatic to be part of Seattle Human Services Department’s Kids and Teens Eat Free Summer Food Service Program. The program, beginning today and running through Friday, August 26, provides free breakfasts, lunches and snacks for children and youth aged 1 – 18. The meals are served to children at 90 approved sites throughout the city where at least half the children are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches. Sites include designated community centers, Seattle park playgrounds, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs and YWCAs, and other community sites throughout Seattle and parts of King County.
In addition to daily packaged meals and snacks, participating children will have access to free bags of fresh produce to bring home to their families weekly. The fresh produce bags are an exciting addition to the meal program this year. Because of City of Seattle partnerships made through the Farm to Table project this year, PSFN was chosen to coordinate the produce bag pilot. PSFN’s Karen Mauden and Lucy Norris visited over five serious farm candidates for the program, interviewing only PSFN members. Based on highly competitive selection screening criteria given to us by the City of Seattle, we chose
Maltby Produce/Marshland Orchards as the exclusive local produce grower for this groundbreaking program and we’re confident they will do an exceptional job! Maltby will be selling fresh fruits and vegetables to fill 8000 bags to be distributed among participating children at meal sites over the course of the 2-month program. We hope this will lead to more opportunities for local farms to connect with schools and other city feeding programs in the future.
The Seattle Summer Food Service Program is funded by a $225,000 Walmart Foundation grant. The grant is part of a larger 25 million dollar project to support summer learning programs, nutritious food access and job opportunities for kids and teens over the summer. Through this summer giving initiative, Walmart will feed 8 million nutritious meals to more than 85,000 kids, help 20,000 students enroll in summer learning programs and provide jobs and training to 5,000 youth. This 25 million dollar project is itself part of a broader Walmart commitment promising two billion dollars to help fight hunger in America. Walmart has committed to help areas where federal, state, or other government funding for healthy food access has been cut.
On Saturday, Seattle Human Services was joined by PSFN, Maltby Produce, Walmart Foundation representatives and community guests at the New Holly Gathering Hall in Southeast Seattle to kick-off the program! Key speakers included State Representative Eric Pettigrew representing Washington’s 37th Legislative District (South/southeast Seattle area), and U.S. Congressman Jim McDermott. McDermott, a child psychologist as well as politician and a known champion of poverty issues, spoke about how eating well consistently is crucial for children’s proper development, allowing kids to reach their full potential. Human Services Director Danette Smith agreed, saying, “When it comes to our kids, we must do everything possible to provide them the nutrition needed to be healthy, active and ready for the future.”
An interesting facet of the program is the integration of eating, learning, and physical activity. Seattle Human Services Director Danette Smith emphasized the importance of connecting kids to meals and to educational programming over the summer break so that “they may gain, not lose, nutrition and learning opportunities over the summer months.”
Emphasizing this marriage of healthy eating and learning, the launch event included a diverse array of performances and activities. Seattle Parks and Recreation sponsored a performance by the Adefua African Music and Dance Company which offered a rhythm of welcoming and a rhythm of healing for the community members at the gathering. This group will offer free African music, dance, and language education for kids at Othello Park over the summer. City volunteers read the book, From Head to Toe by Eric Carle in both English and Somali. The book encourages children to move different parts of their bodies, and builds confidence in children’s physical abilities by repeating, “yes, I can!” There was also a performance of Mexican music, and dance performance by the Union Gospel Mission’s Youth Dance Troupe! Tabling organizations offered books and information on summer reading programs for kids, free blood pressure tests, and nutrition information from families. Continuing this tie between healthy eating/active living and summer education, as part of the Summer Food Service Program the Seattle Public Library will provide fun and educational programming in conjunction with the feeding program (such as story times in five different languages!) as well as provide free books for children at story time sites.
PSFN Project Manager, Lucy Norris, and Maltby Produce’s Marijke Postema and her husband, John, spoke at the kick-off, expressing their excitement about their business’ involvement in this important summer program. Maltby Produce brought beautiful produce displays including samples of the produce bags which will be distributed through the program. They also provided case loads of beautiful, fresh veggie snacks for the event including baby cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and broccoli for munching on! It was a riot to watch skeptical tots take bites out of rainbow carrots with the tops still on– they were a big hit! Maltby Produce and PSFN are really excited to play a role in introducing new and exciting fresh fruits and vegetables to children and families in need in our community!
This program is a real win-win for Seattle children and Maltby Produce (and all local producers!). It goes to show that connecting fresh, healthful foods with children and families in need is a viable and exciting market opportunity for small- and mid-sized local producers! As PSFN’s Lucy Norris said,
There is ripe opportunity for PSFN to continue working within our region to build a self-sustaining food system that mobilizes businesses and institutions, aids underserved communities and increases the profitability of farmers in Northwest Washington. Opportunities like the Summer Feeding Program led by the City of Seattle can serve as an example for other communities within the region and other parts of the United States.
We’re so pleased to be able to be a part of this exciting program. Stay tuned for updates on the project and photos of some of the first produce deliveries!
For more pictures of this weekend’s program launch, visit our Facebook Page
Komo 4 News coverage of the launch: http://rainiervalley.komonews.com/news/parents-kids/special-summer-program-keeps-kids-going-hungry/649299
City of Seattle Press Release: http://www.seattle.gov/news/detail.asp?ID=11854&Dept=21
For more information or to find out where a child you know can receive summer meals, contact Javier Pulido, Program Coordinator, Human Services Department, at 206-386-1140 or firstname.lastname@example.org.