As we continue to focus on ending military hunger, we are happy to highlight Nourish Pierce County as this month’s Agency Spotlight. In partnership with the Military Family Advisory Network, Nourish Pierce County hosted a drive-thru food distribution event for JBLM military families on October 16th. In total, nearly 600 households were served.
Nourish Pierce County is not only a resource for local military families, but for an entire county facing some of the greatest total need for food insecurity assistance in western Washington.
Sue Potter is Nourish’ CEO. She explains her food pantries place a high priority on respecting the dignity and humanity of all those they serve.
“We want our pantries to be welcoming, safe places where customers can find nutritious food to nourish their bodies,” says Potter, “it’s also about building friendships and communities. That’s where we can really make a difference.”
Over the years, many small and independent grocery stores have closed, leaving the county peppered with food deserts. A food desert is an area where residents must travel more than a mile to shop for fresh foods. Not only are these areas without fresh foods, they often have the highest concentration of liquor and tobacco stores, and fast food outlets. For those experiencing poverty, travel beyond a mile is often difficult, so cheap and easy fast food is often the available choice.
With such difficult access to fresh food, it is no surprise that Pierce County saw 1.3 million visits to food pantries last year, a startling number for a county with a population of less than a million. Thanks to the work of Nourish Pierce County, Pierce County residents facing hunger have a reliable resource.
Nourish operates 24 food distribution sites county-wide. On any given week, these distributions will provide food to more than 10,000 clients. During the pandemic, Nourish served more than 555,000 people, a remarkable feat.
Getting the right food to the right places is critical when faced with such high demand.
“The food deserts are the first place we look,” says Potter. “Is there a location that is on bus routes? Has parking? Is ADA compliant? These are all considerations that go into where we can serve.”
And rural communities often have very little access to food assistance, and distribution sites are hard to find. “This is where our mobile stores come into play. Sometimes it’s serving food from the back of a semi-truck.”
No matter the location, Nourish is steadfast in its mission to treat its clients with compassion, dignity, and respect.
Nourish spends about $250,000 each year on food. With limited access to refrigerated space, they can’t purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s where the partnership with Food Lifeline comes in.
“Thanks to Food Lifeline’s Restaurant and Food Resources Program, we receive a wealth of fresh fruits and vegetables from local grocery stores every week”, says Potter. “These foods are considered the gold standard in food banking, and they help keep our clients healthy and thriving.”
And clients of the Nourish food programs can’t say enough about the value of the foods they receive.
“Just getting some fresh milk and a box of cereal is a game-changer for me”, says one senior. “It’s a small thing, but it makes me happy.”
Nourish is now working to add more culturally appropriate foods to its supplies. These are foods that are familiar to different cultural groups, and as Potter says, “gives them a taste of home cooking”. Food Lifeline is also working on expanding availability of these culturally appropriate foods, and it’s groups like Nourish that are leading the way on the front line of hunger relief.
For all of its hard work, innovation, and determination – Food Lifeline is proud to recognize Nourish Pierce County as our October Agency Spotlight!