A Look Back at 2021

March 17, 2022

2021 was another challenging year, but we have so much to be grateful for and celebrate. We dreamed big and, with the support of the community, accomplished many of our goals despite the prolonged challenges of the pandemic. Last year, FareStart had the privilege of supporting 141 graduates from our job training programs, facilitating 98 job placements or promotions for students and graduates, providing consulting services to over 64 organizations around the nation, preparing and delivering 1.9 million meals to communities across the Seattle area at 131 different sites and gleaning and recovering over 379,000 pounds of food to reduce hunger and food insecurity. The tremendous support from our FareStart community helped make all these accomplishments possible.


Job Training Programs Evolved

Over the course of 2021, we continued to adapt our training programs to transform lives in a completely virtual space.

We combined our two youth programs into one and established a new partnership with the Y Social Impact Center. Despite the continuation of the pandemic, youth enrollment has been stronger than anticipated. In our Adult Culinary Program, students continue to learn skills that can be applied across a variety of industries and jobs, such as computer and financial literacy, self-empowerment and more. We also established new partnerships with like-minded organizations to provide economic mobility for students and graduates. Jeff, Dana, Amaya and Jeremy shared their inspiring stories with us of their pathways toward success.


Food Security Expanded

In the summer, we piloted a community mobile market to get more nutritious food to insecure communities. We expanded relationships with farmers who are Black, Indigenous and other people of color to buy produce and engaged volunteers with planting and gleaning. The produce from those farms is used in our hunger relief kitchens to nourish adults, youth and families in our community.


Continued Work

In March, we launched a virtual version of our popular Guest Chef Night. Our Guest Chef Night at Home series hosted by FareStart’s Chef Wayne Johnson, brought our community together and featured delicious recipes, supported by local partners and chefs, including; Chef Varin Keokitvon (Seattle Central College), Chef Rachel Yang (Joule Restaurant, Revel), Chef Melissa Miranda (Musang Seattle), Chef Francisco Migoya (Modernist Cuisine), Chef Brendan McGill (Hitchcock), and FareStart’s very own Chef Natalie Evans (WeBeJAMin’ Bakery). We created a virtual Food for Thought panel discussion series that focused on highlighting thought leadership and partnerships in food security, innovation and work force development.

Although we had hoped to celebrate together in person, out of an abundance of caution, we pivoted our annual gala celebration into a fully virtual event. We partnered with local restaurants: Jerk Shack, Lark, The Metropolitan Grill and Musang, who curated meals that were delivered by our incredible volunteers for attendees to enjoy during the event. We got to know graduates Donna and Omar and were blown away by gracious donations made by the FareStart community.

In July, the FareStart Café (formally Rise by FareStart) on Amazon’s South Lake Union campus reopened. Our pause of onsite job training and the reopening of our other public-facing social enterprises was extended due to ongoing pandemic safety concerns and the absence of our customer base downtown due to the continuation of remote work.

We also expanded our diversity, equity and inclusion department to help shape FareStart’s future race equity and justice work.  We continued to build workforce efficacy to advance our journey toward anti-racism action.


COVID Challenges

The health and safety of our students, staff, volunteers and partners are central to how we go about our work, which helped inform our choices for how we navigated 2021 and pursued our mission.

While we continue to outpace the number of meals produced pre-COVID, we served fewer meals than initially planned in 2021. Schools returned to in-person instruction and resumed their breakfast and lunch programs, and a challenging hiring market slowed our production. Increasing food costs and supply chain challenges also impacted our meal output. During this time, however, we continued to focus on serving populations with the greatest food needs, in particular individuals in permanent supportive housing who have experienced homelessness and trauma. 

Student enrollment increased over 2020, though it was below our anticipated yearly goal due to the longer than anticipated continuation of COVID and its impact in our community.

To realize our mission in a better, more equitable way, we shared our 2022 – 2025 strategic plan which included significant shifts in how we go about our work and ensure we center our efforts on the communities furthest from opportunity and most affected by poverty, homelessness and food insecurity.


Looking Ahead

This year, we remain more committed than ever to our students, graduates, staff and volunteers, as well as our food security and hunger relief work and we look forward to safely celebrating successes with the FareStart community. We have delivered more than 4 million meals since the beginning of COVID, and we are on track to reach 5 million in the coming months.

2022 marks FareStart’s 30th anniversary and with the community’s continued support, we will help people transform their lives through food — one person, one job and one community at a time.


Thank you, FareStart Community

Every day in 2021, the FareStart community showed up to support our organization, students, graduates, meal and food recovery work. Your support shined bright through volunteering your time, and donating goods, services and monetary gifts.

We’re also thankful to the many major corporate and foundation donors who supported our mission throughout 2021, including: Amazon, Bank of America, Costco Wholesale, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Deloitte, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Lineage Logistics, Northwest Harvest, Orowheat, Premera Blue Cross, The Roma Foundation, Safeway and Albertsons Foundation Nourishing Neighbors, Starbucks, Sysco Food Service and Tableau Foundation.

Your ongoing support fuels our mission and work every day.