food access 1The Healthy Food Access Team made great progress in 2012.

Last year was the mark of empowerment and emerging leaders. In the pursuit of food justice, for low income women and women of color, the Team took to the steps of the State legislature and embarked on a mission to save the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP). They also started a dialogue in the community of Skyway around the issue of  “food deserts,” and created a name for themselves in the community as the go-to organization for food justice.

Many of the team members had never organized in their communities before. But withdetermination and a little help from some friends, they sent a message that the women of the Healthy Food Access Team are a force to be reckoned with. Over the course of 2012 they changed the narrative of their story, from demanding what IS right, to demanding the right to be at the table.

In November 2011, the Team led a very successful action at Chase bank that asked the bank to give 10% of their Washington State EBT card contract to save the FMNP.  2012 continued that work with a fight to keep the program in the State’s budget.

The FMNP provides $20 to low-income families that are already in the Women, Infants & Children (WIC) program and $40 to those in the Senior Farmers Market Nutritional program, to buy fresh produce from farmers at their local farmers market. The program has an administrative annual budget of $100,000. Without the administrative budget, the state would be losing over $900,000 in federal food dollars and in the words of Violet Lavatai, one of Got Green’s emerging leaders highlighted in this Annual Report, “That’s just bad math!”

Healthy Foods for Healthy Comunities

Healthy Foods for Healthy Comunities

The Team recognized that this cut would affect 40,000 families‘ ability to put food on their table and would affect the livelihood of local farmers. Knowing the stakes, the women dove into the legislative process head on, determined to save the FMNP. For most, this was their first time at the Capitol Campus. They found allies that helped them navigate the legislative process, such as the Faith Action Network and Washington State Farmers Association.

During their trips to Olympia, the team hand delivered 350-signed petitions. On February 22, 2012 their hard work paid off. They received word that the FMNP was in the budget, fully funded.

Next, the women took their passion to the Skyway community, organizing around access to healthy foods. Skyway was an FDA designated “food desert” because there were no easily accessible grocery stores. In an effort to understand how residents were impacted, the Team went door-to-door asking whether access to healthy food was an issue. The result was the majority (60%) of 225 people surveyed said the issue was “critical” or “very important.” Of those surveyed, the majority were people of color (79%) and considered themselves “low-income” (56%), reflecting the true demographic of Skyway.

With results in hand, the Team started a community dialogue. They began by leading an educational discussion with 15 grassroots leaders. They also followed up with people they surveyed, strengthening their ties to the community and building more leaders. Later in the year, there was an announcement that a Grocery Outlet was coming to Skyway. A true victory for the community of Skyway and the Team!

Another success came in August as the City of Seattle announced that people who use the Supplemental Nutritional Program (SNAP)/Food Stamps would receive more dollars in the food budget with Fresh Bucks, which are credits that can be used at any of the seven farmers markets. Thanks to Got Green’s report, which informed the community and media about “double up bucks” giving more healthy food dollars to the people, the city adopted a similar model and due to its success, was extended.

With the successes of 2012 as testimony, it’s no surprise that these women accomplish great things when they put their mind to it! They are currently working on making the Fresh Bucks Program a permanent one. We expect exciting results from their hard work in 2013.

By Elaine Agoot

Elaine Agoot is a Taurus who enjoys being outdoors and exploring the PNW. She has been involved with Got Green since 2009 and is a member of Pin@y Sa Seattle.

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