by Owen Rowe
At the February Food Co-op Board meeting, we had an engaging and lively discussion of Food Access as the board’s Study & Engagement topic for the month, hosted by Board members Patricia Smith and Catherine Durkin.
What is Food Access?
First, we had a roundtable discussion of the meaning of the phrase “food access,” and the consensus was that it’s not just a trendy buzzword, but a useful way to focus work on removing barriers—physical, financial, informational—between people and the nutritional resources they need. There is a growing international awareness, reaching to the UN itself, that food access is a basic human right. “Food security” is a related concept, but extended to cover communities and the resiliency and sustainability of their local food sources, particularly in times of political or natural disruption.
The Food Co-op plays a central role in ensuring food access to Port Townsend and the surrounding area. General Manager Kenna Eaton presented how the Co-op is addressing food access, from accepting SNAP and WIC payments, to the Centsibles and Co+op Basics programs, to donating food and classes to the Food Bank, Head Start, Dove House, and the YMCA.
Featured Partner: Port Townsend School District
One of our food access partners, the Port Townsend School District, wrapped up the session’s presentations. The Food Co-op recently donated funds to the district for a new stove, and Stacey Larsen, the district’s Food Service Director, came to tell us about the transformations in the way students and employees think and learn about food.
Goodbye, “Cheese Zombies”
In the past five years, the Farm to School initiative has replaced “cheese zombies” (don’t ask!) and branded sodas with fresh, healthy, local food. PT has a fairly high proportion of students who qualify for free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch, but all students and staff can choose to buy lunch for less than $4. If you saw Michael Moore’s latest movie, Where to Invade Next—our PT school lunches now look a lot like the delicious and nutritious offerings in France, not the factory-processed “food” served in the typical American school.
Hello, farm-fresh veggies!
The schools work with Red Dog and Dharma Ridge farms for fresh ingredients, and right now the high school is ripping out a parking lot to convert into a garden of their own. Students will learn about healthy and nutritious food from the time the seed goes into the ground.
There is still a lot of work to do, including incorporating healthy eating and nutrition learning into the curriculum from K-12. Stacey emphasized the community nature of the effort, and noted that she is looking for ways to let community and family members join the kids at lunch. We’ll be first in line!
Improve your own access to healthy food
For more tips on accessing healthy food for yourself, the Food Co-op provides the brochure How to Shop on a Budget, available in the information corner at the front of the store. We also highly recommend Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day, a cookbook by Leanne Brown—available for free on the web!