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Food for Thought: July 2023

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Without Food, There is No Life  |  Seattle Pride  |  Feast World Kitchen  |  My Neighbor’s Table

Without Food, There is No Life

photo of garden bed full of greens with people reaching in to gardenRainier Beach Action Coalition (RBAC) is a grassroots, Black-led organization devoted to locally driven development. For over ten years, it has promoted quality education, living wage jobs, affordable transportation and housing, and building community capacity in Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood.

RBAC’s food justice work is built into four main projects:

  1. They run a weekly free farm stand “to serve the Rainier Beach community and surrounding neighborhoods, and more specifically BIPOC, immigrants, elders, and low-income families by increasing access to fresh, affordable, culturally relevant produce.”
  2. They host a Food Policy Council that will convene over three years to drive food systems change and amplify voices of BIPOC farmers in South King County” and create “a space for sharing knowledge, experiences, stories, data, and economic opportunity to uplift each other.”
  3. They are designing a Food Innovation Center “to house the existing free distribution model, as well as the addition of partner business that will utilize services offered by the Food Hub.”
  4. RBAC also created the Garden Gremlins, a group of volunteers “committed to the maintenance and upkeep of the RBAC Garden Beds, as well as to building relationships with other local gardens/gardeners and contributing to RBAC’s Food Justice advocacy and action areas.”

The Farm Stand, open each Saturday from June – October, provides free produce from the farms that partner with RBAC which are primarily owned and operated by people of color, immigrant and refugee farmers, and women. In addition to supporting farmers who have been historically marginalized, providing nutritious and fresh produce to the neighbors, the Farm Stand itself is also a youth-centered development program. Young adults transitioning into adulthood (YATTAs), aged 16 – 24 staff and manage the Farm Stand each weekend. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, visitors to the Farm Stand have increased by 250%.

photo of raised beds full of greens

This project also sparked the idea for a new food justice program that launched this year: community supported agriculture (CSA) boxes that are delivered to residents with disabilities or other community members who may face barriers getting to the Farm Stand. CSA delivery is a stellar example of programming that centers accessibility and inclusion – making sure the needs of the most heavily impacted are centered and considered.

RBAC also centers the voices of Black, indigenous, and other people of color through the Food Policy Council. This multi-year project aims to build community, identify challenges in our food systems as they exist currently, and suggest policy solutions that better serve the stakeholders involved. This group provides the opportunity to represent the interests of smaller independent farms that are systemically denied access to the resources they need, like land, water, storage options, and heavy equipment.

“Everyone needs to eat to be where they are supposed to be. Without food there is no life,” says Beatrice, a member of the Food Policy Council and one of the farmers whose produce is distributed at the Farm Stand. She goes on to reflect on the importance of food in connecting people, and notes that most people are quite far removed from where their food comes from. Even more people are completely unaware of the challenges faced by farmers. Very few average consumers consider that some of the people producing and growing their food are themselves experiencing food insecurity. Focusing on the economic wellbeing and viability of farms owned by people from marginalized communities could help consumers reestablish their relationship with the life their food has before it reaches them. When we take better care of all the people involved in our food systems, we can have a healthier relationship with the food we enjoy at home.

Seattle Pride

Northwest Harvest staff and volunteers march in the 2023 Seattle Pride Parade - group carries banner with 'love is a right-food is a right' message

Northwest Harvest thanks all the staff, volunteers, families, and supporters who participated in numerous Pride festivities throughout the month of June. We attended Pride festivals in Spokane, Yakima, and Seattle at Pride ASIA, the Queer/Pride Festival on Capitol Hill, and the Seattle Pride Parade. We had a blast filming a SODO Community Market tour with a few local celebrity performers, highlighting opportunities to volunteer with Northwest Harvest! Watch the video on our Instagram. Just because June is over, doesn’t mean the party is: we look forward to working with Seattle’s Taking B(L)ack Pride to support their festival on August 19th at Othello Park. See you there?

Feast World Kitchen: Building Opportunity Through Flavor

It’s a Thursday morning in downtown Spokane on the corner of South Cedar Street – you can smell the aroma of ground spices: coriander, cumin, ginger, garlic, and onion finely chopped tossed into a pan of hot oil with that quintessential tsssssss sound. More than just a restaurant, Feast World Kitchen’s mission is to elevate and empower immigrants and former refugees as leaders, using international cuisine as a platform for economic resilience, holistic growth, and culture-sharing. As they share flavors from their original home cultures, the Chef Entrepreneurs learn career skills, earn the income from their food sales, and build community connections.

No two days are the same at Feast. Stop by on a Sunday for tantalizing tres-leches cake, tamales, or empanadas from Colombia. The next weekend you’ll find mouthwatering kofta from Sudan, slowly simmering curries like Ragda chaat, or lemon coriander chicken – dishes that are the epitome of international home cooking only available with such variety at Feast World Kitchen.

Maisa Abudaya, executive director and co-founder of Feast, originally from Jordan, was instrumental in the development and growth of this non-profit kitchen. She works to ensure that they are serving amazing food while also providing a path to success for other immigrants from all over the world.

It was a difficult adjustment for Maisa when she arrived in the states in 2013: she had an eight-year career as a computer programmer in Jordan, but her degree did not transfer, and she faced limited job prospects in her field. With a family to care for and school on the side, she took up catering to help pay bills. Customers were elated over Maisa’s flavorful, authentic Jordanian cuisine. Excited by the popularity of her food and interested in expanding business, Maisa explored the Spokane food truck scene and met Ross Carper, co-founder of Feast World Kitchen. A food truck collaboration blossomed into a lasting partnership that led to a permanent facility with a rotating selection of cuisine from around the world.

Feast has seen tremendous success since opening in 2018 and is continuing to provide dedicated space for families and individuals coming to the US for a new start. This work aids in destigmatizing what it means to be an immigrant or former refugee through flavor, mentorship, and community. It serves as a safer place for immigrants, some escaping personal or political violence, where they can build skills in a welcoming environment with supportive community. Maisa is thrilled that Feast has been able to help so many in her community find success. “Two years ago, I am dreaming to have Feast all over the state – there is a need in the community for what we are doing,” she says.

Last year Feast World Kitchen’s chefs served over 30,000 meals from cultures all over the globe, with the help of volunteers and staff. Revenue from the restaurant and catering totaled over $300,000, which went directly to the chefs for their services. New programs like Table Time and weekly pop ups from Inland Curry are ventures for newcomers to Feast World Kitchen to share the delicious flavors of their home country while supporting themselves.

You can check out Feast World Kitchen’s rotating selection of chef partners on their website and join the cause to support their collective of immigrants in sharing their culture and building a successful future for themselves and their families.

My Neighbor’s Table: Fresas con Crema

My Neighbor’s Table features recipes from communities across Washington for you to make at home. Whether it’s trying a new ingredient or falling in love with the flavors of a new dish, we believe food brings people together.

recipe card for fresas con crema - photo of prepared dish with instructions

Fresas con crema is a simple and tasty dessert, originating from either Mexico or Columbia. However, no matter where you find it, this refreshing treat is extremely popular in the summer around strawberry season and is sure to refresh and tickle the taste buds.