2020: Hope Was Not Cancelled

January 28, 2021

FareStart employee packing meals that will be distributed to those most in need in the greater Seattle area.
Photo by Joshua Lewis

Despite the pandemic, FareStart experienced incredible strength, resiliency and hope in 2020. We witnessed how crisis brings the community together – even in a virtual world. In the midst of upheaval and uncertainty, FareStart remained focused on its mission. We enrolled 141 students in job training (in-person pre-pandemic and then virtually), made over 150 job placements, served 2.1 million meals to the Seattle area and provided over 18 million meals across the country through our Catalyst Kitchens network. The community’s immediate and unwavering support made these accomplishments possible.

Shifting to Crisis Hunger Relief 
In March 2020, we transformed our kitchens and redeployed staff to focus on hunger relief for thousands of our most vulnerable neighbors in the Seattle area. We temporarily hired some of our graduates who were impacted by the pandemic to support the ramped-up meal efforts. From sandwiches to frozen meals, we produced meals for DESC, Plymouth Housing, YMCA, Seattle Public Schools, food banks, King County quarantine sites and many other partners. By the end of 2020, we’d served close to 2 million meals – more than double than was served in all of 2019. We are thankful to our frontline workers, delivery drivers and partners who pivoted and evolved as new safety protocols and mandates were rolled out to keep each other and our meal recipients safe.  

Supporting Emergency Meals Across the Country
Last Spring, FareStart’s national program Catalyst Kitchens was selected to be a part of Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof’s Kristof Impact Initiative. In partnership with Focusing Philanthropy, the initiative kicked off with an opinion piece from the New York Times highlighting how readers can help “change lives in the pandemic” by financially supporting nonprofits on the frontlines. Kristof’s readers responded with an outpouring of generosity totaling in over $1.6 million distributed among 52 Catalyst Kitchens organizations in 39 cities and 24 states across the country to fund their hunger relief efforts.  

Pivoting to the Virtual World
After making the difficult decision to temporarily pause our job training programs in March, we were thrilled to welcome back students in the fall when we launched a virtual version of the Adult Culinary Program. The virtual program features an updated curriculum with an emphasis on transferrable skills that can be applied across a variety of industries. Students received various types of training, including self-empowerment, financial literacy, knife skills and culinary clinics with our chef trainers. We also relaunched virtual versions of our two youth programs. Our Catalyst Kitchens team consulted with members and clients in the virtual space as well – and hosted our first ever virtual National Summit, with nearly 450 attendees from organizations around the country. Finally, in October we hosted a virtual gala. More than 1,000 people tuned into YouTube to bid on auction items, see highlights of our COVID response and raise vital funds for our mission. 

Strength of the FareStart Community 
Last year consisted of many firsts for FareStart. We could not have stepped up to feed so many of the most vulnerable among us without our many donors, volunteers, partners and supporters. We are so grateful to our community that helped lend their compassion and support. Despite the pandemic, hope was not cancelled. 

Heading into 2021, we remain more committed than ever to our mission and work to reduce growing food insecurity. Shortly after the New Year we hit another milestone: 2 million emergency meals. With our community by our side, we will continue to disrupt poverty and nourish communities.

Top Corporate & Foundation Donors
With our social enterprise businesses temporarily paused, financial donations are more important than ever – donors fuel our mission. Thank you to the record number of individual donors, both longtime and new, who so generously donated in 2020. 

We’re also deeply thankful to the many major corporate and foundation donors that supported our mission throughout 2020, including: Amazon, All in Seattle, Aven Foundation, Bank of America, BC Partners Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bimbo Bakery, Bittrex, Boeing, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Byron and Alice Lockwood Foundation, Charlie’s Produce, Coca-Cola Foundation, Continental Mills, Costco Wholesale, Crystal Dynamics, Dick’s Drive-In, First & Goal, Focusing Philanthropy, Google, Harnish Foundation, Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Isaac Alhadeff Foundation, Jacques Pépin Foundation, Karin Bain & John Kukral Foundation, The Kroger Foundation , Lineage Logistics, Lucky Seven Foundation, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Medina Foundation, Microsoft, Moccasin Lake Foundation, Neupert Family Foundation, No Kid Hungry, The Norcliffe Foundation , Nourishing Neighbors (Safeway/Albertsons), Pacific Coast Fruit Company, PCC, Pivotal Ventures, Raikes Foundation, REDF, Roma Foundation, Salesforce, The Schuler Family Foundation , Schultz Family Foundation, The Seattle Foundation, Seattle Seahawks, Share our Strength, Stand Together Foundation, Starbucks Foundation, Sysco Food Service, Tableau, Tomkat Foundation, TransWest, United Way of King County, US Bank Foundation, Wave Foundation and The Wyncote Foundation NW.