ADDRESS: 1501 N 45th St. Seattle, WA 98103
WEBSITE: Lettuce Link
CONTACT: Michelle B. Benetua
TITLE: Lettuce Link Program Manager
PHONE: (206) 694-6754
Solid Ground (formerly the Fremont Public Association) is dedicated to "working toward a just and caring community, free from poverty, prejudice and neglect" by: 1) developing and providing creative, comprehensive and effective responses to our community's needs, 2) offering quality human services in a manner that promotes dignity, and 3) advocating for public policies and private initiatives that give all people equal opportunities and resources. Each year, our 30 vital programs, 400+ staff members and nearly 3,000 volunteers assist more than 25,000 low-income children and adults throughout Seattle and King County to meet their most basic living needs.
LETTUCE LINK PROGRAM DESCRIPTION
Lettuce Link is a creative emergency food and gardening program that meets a very basic community need: We provide fresh organic produce, vegetable seeds, plant starts, organic gardening supplies, assistance and information to low-income people throughout Seattle, helping to prevent malnutrition and connecting people with the resources they need to grow their own nutritious foods. As the cost of organic produce is prohibitive for people struggling to make ends meet; Lettuce Link fills an important role in our community.
Operating under the belief that access to nutritious foods is a basic human right, we work to ensure that food bank clients, hot meals patrons and other low-income people have access to fresh, organic produce to supplement the canned goods and other "shelf" staples typically provided through emergency food programs plus seeds and plant starts so they can grow their own vegetables.
Supply 40,000 lbs. of fresh organic produce to Seattle-area food banks and hot meal programs each year, collecting extra vegetables from community gardeners and extra fruit from neighborhood fruit trees. Our main collaborator is Seattle P-Patch, a community garden program that provides gardening space to neighborhood residents. Of the 70 community gardens, half donate produce and 28 maintain entire plots designated as food bank gardens. The produce is distributed to over two-dozen agencies each year, both hot meals programs and food banks. Lettuce Link coordinates an active volunteer delivery network at the two largest community gardens in Seattle, picking up produce three days a week during the summer months.
Engage local low-income people in growing their own organic vegetables by distributing culturally appropriate seed packets, plant starts, and gardening information to people in need. Most of the seeds and plant starts are distributed at twenty-nine food banks in Seattle, but individuals can also call and request seeds and gardening booklets. We receive donations of seeds, and have a budget to purchase bulk seeds, such as pac choi, that we do not get enough donations of.
Teach environmental stewardship through our "outdoor classroom" in the Giving Garden at Marra Farm. The Seattle food bank system is Lettuce Link's primary means of reaching families in need, but we continually work to find creative ways to connect with nutritionally at risk people. Our Giving Garden at Marra Farm is an ideal venue for teaching kids and community members alike about the environment, nutrition, hunger issues, and how community organic gardening can give back to and nurture communities. Located on the 4-acre Marra Farm (some of the last remaining farmland in Seattle), our 1/2-acre Giving Garden is an interactive teaching venue. Lettuce Link works in Coalition with several other non-profits in stewarding site now owned by the Seattle Parks Department. The Marra Farm Coalition has been meeting monthly since 1998, and is responsible for restoring the farmland.
Lettuce Link makes every effort to involve residents of the immediate South Park community in activities at Marra Farm. It's an ethnically diverse neighborhood with a particularly large Hispanic population. When possible, signage, gardening information and class materials are written in both Spanish and English to better connect with our neighbors. South Park residents are encouraged to volunteer at the farm and to take home fresh organic produce.
The Giving Garden truly helps sustain its own: actively cared for by neighbors and greater Seattle community members. Our work in this community is particularly critical in that the sole food bank in South Park receives very few produce donations aside from the 13,000 pounds grown and donated from Lettuce Link.
Reaching Kids - Concord Elementary School: Each year we work with over 150 children from the Concord Elementary School, located just a few blocks from the farm. Like the neighborhood around it, many Concord Elementary School students come from low-income families. In fact, over 80% qualify for free or reduced-price lunches (and are statistically at risk of hunger). Students visit the farm to learn about organic gardening, composting, and recycling and gain an understanding of how their food travels from the earth, to the produce stand or grocery store, to their own dinner tables. They have the opportunity to plant, nurture and harvest their own vegetables. These meaningful, hands-on experiences can instill a lifelong connection to the environment and a sense of responsibility for caring for it.
Nutrition Outreach and Exercise – With the help of volunteer dieticians and nutritionists, the children also learn the value of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. As part of their garden education, they receive a lesson in nutrition, prepare and taste healthy farm fresh snacks. During their visits to the farm, volunteer University students also engage the children in active games that get them running, jumping, laughing and moving. With many low-income children at risk of obesity, our outdoor classes provide a natural setting for children to learn healthy eating habits and release their kid wiggles in fun games with farm-based themes.
GARDEN COOKING CLASSES–Solid Ground’s Operation Frontline: Lettuce Link hosts Operation Frontline cooking classes at Marra Farm –the only classes in this series offered in an outdoor setting. This 5-week series of lessons covers eating right, planning a balanced diet, cooking lean and low fat meals, preparing healthy snacks, and shopping smart on a low budget. During the summer, children from the community center learn to prepare nutritious and delicious low-cost meals using many ingredients they harvest fresh from the Garden and which they can learn to grow themselves in limited urban gardening spaces.
MOBILIZING VOLUNTEERS– Hundreds of volunteers contribute thousands of hours a year to help make Lettuce Link a success. With only two part-time staff members, this volunteer involvement is absolutely essential. Volunteers also have a lot to gain: Community members of all ages and walks of life can learn sustainable gardening at the Giving Garden as they volunteer. They learn organic gardening methods, respect for the environment and healthy approaches to nutrition and food production while helping to plant, maintain and harvest vegetables. Volunteers grow and donate ten tons of fresh organic produce each year. They sort and distribute seeds and plants starts, and they transport fresh produce directly from gardens to food banks and hot meal sites. Without volunteer help, Lettuce Link couldn't function.
2006 Highlights We served over 3500 clients at on-site seed distributions at 15 Seattle food banks and distributed over 14,000 seed packets to 24 Seattle food banks. In 2006, over 40,000 pounds of fresh, organic produce from P-Patch gardens, Marra Farm, the community fruit tree harvest, and others was donated to food banks and hot meals programs. Lettuce Link logged over 4,500 hours of volunteer labor.
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