Skip to content
Northwest Harvest
Donate Now
Find Partner Food Programs

Stories from the Harvest: August 2022

Advocacy in Action  |  Use Your Voice! Urge Your Representatives to Pass Child Nutrition Act  |  Recipes for Food Justice

Advocacy in Action

The best policies are developed in partnership with people most impacted by those policies. People with firsthand lived experience are often not invited to the table to provide insight and feedback on legislation at all stages: from policy design, to implementation, to evaluation. One of our Community Advisory Network (*CAN) members, Dante Pollard, seeks to change that.

In addition to being active in CAN, Dante has worked with the Statewide Poverty Action Network, has sat on Governor Inslee’s Poverty Reduction Workgroup Steering Committee and has supported the development of a ten-year plan to reduce poverty in Washington State.

Dante knows how crucial it is for people who are actively experiencing food insecurity to provide input with legislators and policymakers. “The work itself motivates me. I contribute my experience and have started to see small changes in the system.” He also encourages other people experiencing hunger to use their voices but understands that “a lot of people don’t want to speak on things they can’t help, or don’t think it will make a difference. People also fear retaliation if they share their honest experiences.”

Yet the need remains clear and urgent: despite careful budgeting, meal planning, and stretching every available resource, Dante routinely struggles to consistently feed his two children, himself, and pay all their bills. “It is difficult to find food my girls like that is also healthy, and not too expensive. Cost is always the thing that gets me, and beats me over the head – you think you’ve purchased enough, but it goes by quickly, and then the last week of the month comes and fear kicks in.”

When asked what would change about his life if he didn’t have to worry about food, Dante said: “The bills would get paid on time, I could get gas worry-free, I could buy things my kids would like and eat, I’d have enough to sustain our family for the month. So much time and energy goes into making sure there’s food on the table. You can’t think straight when you’re hungry.”

Despite all the barriers Dante faces to provide for his family, he is still committed to seeing larger systems change through, for the benefit of people who share similar experiences. He is actively involved in solutions to hunger and poverty.

At Northwest Harvest we believe that feeding yourself and your family with dignity is a human right. For most families, nutrition assistance programs do not provide adequate benefits to ensure that people do not go hungry at the expense of other basic needs. We value and are grateful for people like Dante who contribute so much to their community and allow us to be better advocates alongside people experiencing hunger.

*CAN was founded in 2020 to gather and document input from individuals who use the Fruit and Vegetable Incentive Program—to improve access and contribute to planning for future development of the program. This group is coordinated by Northwest Harvest and convenes monthly. Participants in CAN are compensated for their time.

Use Your Voice! Urge Your Representatives to Pass Child Nutrition Act


We believe all kids across the country should have consistent nutrition where they live, learn, and play. When our kids can eat healthy meals year-round, they have the fuel they need to focus on learning, and the foundation is laid for a better future of improved health and economic opportunity.

Before breaking for the August recess, the House Education and Labor Committee set in motion the legislative process to expand access and participation in year-round healthy eating for our kids by passing H.R. 8450, the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act.

Congress has not reauthorized our child nutrition programs since 2010. The pandemic has drastically altered the economic futures for more kids than before: we saw historic highs in child hunger rates—as many as 1 in 3 Washington households with children struggled to put food on the table. Congress rose to this challenge, authorizing universal school meals, pandemic EBT, allowing WIC clinics to use telehealth appointments, and providing flexible funds to help schools meet supply chain issues. These ideas have been put to the test and they worked! We need to make sure these successful policy interventions remain intact and continue to support the children and families that need it most.

WHAT CAN WE DO? Our strongest resource is our collective experience! We’ve provided you with a standard email message expressing support for these provisions, but we invite you to personalize it with your own stories. Urge our Senators and your Member of Congress to pass this bill when they return from recess in early September. Hungry children can’t wait!


Recipes for Food Justice

Meet Reem Assil! Reem is a Palestinian-Syrian chef based in Oakland, CA and owner of Reem’s California, a nationally acclaimed restaurant in Oakland and Reem’s California Mission in San Francisco, inspired by Arab street corner bakeries and the vibrant communities that surround them. Reem sits at the intersection of her three passions: food, community, and social justice. She uses food to invoke the central virtue of her Arab culture ⁠— hospitality ⁠— to build strong, resilient, and connected community.

Before dedicating herself to a culinary career, Reem spent over a decade as a community and labor organizer, building leadership in workers and residents to fight for living wages, affordable housing, and a voice in their jobs and their neighborhoods. Reem was a 2021 Emerson Collective Fellow in the Recover & Renew Cohort to incubate Sumoud, a replicable worker-ownership apprenticeship program equipping food-service workers with the tools they need to make meaningful, systemic change in the restaurant industry and beyond.

For our Recipes for Food Justice Series, Reem shared with us her recipe for mutabal shamandar, a beet-tahini dip.

Mutabal Shamandar (Beet-Tahini Spread)

Makes 3 cups

This mezze spread has a natural sweetness and electric magenta color. It starts off sweet, then gets a little spicy, and ends with an earthy, savory flavor that will make you want to go back for more. Like most mezze spread dips, it tastes even better when made a day ahead, giving all the flavors a chance to meld. This makes for a lovely dip for bread and veggies.


  • 4 red beets (~2 pounds)
  • 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 serrano chili, stems, seeds, and veins removed, halved lengthwise
  • 1⁄4 c lemon juice (from about 2 lemons), plus more as needed
  • 1⁄2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted, or 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1⁄2 c tahini, plus more as needed
  • 1 TBS coarsely chopped herbs, such as cilantro, dill, or fennel fronds for garnish


  • Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  • In a medium bowl, coat the beets in the oil and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Tear four lengths of aluminum foil and tightly wrap each beet individually in the foil. Roast the beets in the oven for about 1 hour, until caramelized and tender (a knife or cake tester should go through them with little or no resistance). Remove the beets from the oven and cool in the foil.
  • For this next step, I save old towels I don’t mind staining. When cool enough to handle, remove the beets from the foil, wrap each beet in a towel, and rub the peels away.
  • Coarsely chop the beets and place them in a food processor or blender. Add the garlic, chili, lemon juice, cumin, and the remaining 2 teaspoons salt and blend for about 5 minutes, until creamy and smooth. Slowly drizzle in the tahini and continue blending until the tahini is fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Adjust the salt and lemon juice to taste. If you want a thicker spread, blend in more tahini, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  • When ready to serve, scoop the mixture onto a serving plate, drizzle with the oil, and garnish it with the herbs.
  • This spread can be made ahead of time and stored, ungarnished, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.