FareStart Launches Pilot Project to Reduce Food Insecurity

August 4, 2021

According to the Seattle Times, "... Food bank staff and public health officials predict it will take households several years to recover from food insecurity made worse by the economic instability of the pandemic. As federally funded programs for economic recovery draw to a close, experts say more support is needed for families to gain access to fresh and healthy food."

FareStart was founded on the idea of feeding our communities. For nearly 30 years, we have provided nutritious meals through our Community and School Meals Program. As food insecurity continues to grow as a result of COVID-19, we have been experimenting with new ways to bridge the gap.

Innovation is at the core of our organization and helps us continue to find new ways to address food insecurity in our communities. The FareStart innovation team is responsible for brainstorming new ways to reach communities by expanding food security and economic mobility. Their approach for new projects is centered around design thinking. Design thinking focuses on five key steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. This process supports FareStart in finding new ways to serve our communities with a human-centered approach through determining what a community's needs are and how a project would positively impact that community, as well as brainstorm solutions and create prototypes to determine their effectiveness.

This summer we are piloting a new community-based market to find new ways to provide equitable access to fresh, healthy food to communities who are underserved, including those who have been impacted by systemic racism in food systems. We are partnering with local organizations to help ensure we understand and are meeting the specific needs of the communities, including King County Housing Authority (KCHA), Neighborhood House, YMCA and Kent Youth and Family Services in Seattle, Kent, Shoreline and Auburn. One of the priorities for the market is to be a support for community-based organizations that are established and recognized in the community. We currently are in the community market pilot testing stage and expect community feedback to determine FareStart's longer-term strategy.

The market is set up to mirror a mini farmer's market and supplies fresh produce, pantry items and other staples at no cost to customers during our piloting phase. While customers shop for their household, they take part in an anonymous survey to share their feedback and experience with our team, which allows us to listen and learn how to better serve each community. The market leverages high quality food that is gathered, gleaned (the collection of excess fresh foods from local farmers) and purchased from food partners, including local BIPOC (Black, Indigenous or people of color) farmers, grocers, retail stores and donors. We are so excited to be working with some amazing partners, including: The Bellevue Urban Garden (tBUG), Sound Sustainable Farms, 21 Acres, Ecolibrium Farms, Farms for Life and City Fruit. The pilot market takes place outdoors and is following all CDC guidelines and social distancing protocols.

We also are exploring potential job training opportunities within the community mobile market model for future FareStart students. This opportunity would provide students with a more diverse training that supports them in their future job and goals.

The pilot project is scheduled to run through the fall. We understand that the pilot program is a learning process. We are discovering how FareStart and a community market could best meet community members' needs and help provide equitable access to affordable, nutritious food. We are eager to share our findings when the pilot is complete and results are analyzed.

We're so grateful for our incredible donors who support our community market pilot, including Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Safeway and Albertsons Foundation Nourishing Neighbors, Starbucks, Conagra Brands and Amazon. We also can't thank our FareStart volunteers who have helped us at each location enough. You help us continue to realize our mission every day.