Food Lifeline’s Mobile Food Pantry (MFP) has energized a growing set of services at the East Whatcom Regional Resource Center in Maple Falls. In this remote region of Western Washington, services for those in need can be few and far between. However, our MFP is developing into an important hub of support for the community.
At our last distribution on February 13th, Washington State University’s (WSU) Food $ense program kicked off their first food demonstration at the center. Food $ense is Washington State’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed). It is a hands-on, culturally sensitive nutrition education program available to Washington Basic Food recipients and schools where 50% or more of the students receive free or reduced-price meals.
The partnership of Food $ense and our MFP was formed to provide an education component to the food distribution. The concept is simple: make sure people have some easy and nutritious strategies for the food they pick up at the MFP. For this first demo, skillet potatoes and a yogurt-based fruit salad were prepared for attendees moments before they received these very ingredients. Lee Anne Riddle, from WSU’s Whatcom County extension, pointed out how exciting it was to see “children eating the potato dish which also included broccoli and red peppers.”
At the demo, attendees could enjoy coffee, chat with others, and sample the recipes on display. Standing in line for food is not an easy thing to do, so providing an opportunity for a nice snack and a little socializing helped soften the mood in the community center. Moreover, it proved an invaluable service for some. As the session wrapped up, a participant thanked the team from WSU, telling them that she had never learned to cook and sincerely appreciated their effort.
In addition to Food $ense, the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center was also on hand to offer their services and support. Offering a safe and confidential space for mediation, case managers were on hand to meet with people and provide information. In this isolated area, transportation and communication problems can often keep people from seeking the help they need. Like the Mobile Food Pantry, the resolution center is trying to help people regardless of distance or geography.
We know that ending hunger requires more than just working hard to source and distribute food. It must also involve facilitating partnerships in the communities we serve. The cooperation taking shape around the Mobile Food Pantry in Maple Falls is an inspiring example of effective collaboration.