MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Plant Based Food Share supports small farms, feeds families in recession

Mar 17, 2021, 1:48 PM

Plant Based Food Share...

A selection of the healthy choices Angel's Acres puts in the boxes. (Photo courtesy of Angel Mitchell)

(Photo courtesy of Angel Mitchell)

One year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, bringing with it economic devastation across the state.

In those 12 months, King County has seen a 20% hike in people on food assistance. And one in 10 county residents say they don’t get enough to eat — that’s nearly double the pre-pandemic figure.

Seattle personal chef Ariel Bangs knew as soon as COVID hit the Northwest that people were going to go hungry.

“I realized, ‘Oh, we need to support more people around getting food, because everybody is going to be shut in,'” she said.

Seattle cyclists deliver food to needy families during pandemic

Bangs runs a business called Healthy Creations, which helps advise people on how to cook nutritious meals and grow their own food.

Taking those skills, she started an all-volunteer program called the Plant Based Food Share to get boxes of fresh produce to families in need.

“We have so many volunteers from so many different walks of life, with so many different [areas of] expertise,” Bangs said. “We have people that are like, ‘I have a background in fundraising, and marketing, and PR, grant-writing, research.'”

Driven entirely by donations and grants, the program delivers enough healthy, vegan foods in each box to last the average family an entire week. There are also recipes for easy and nutritious meals that can be made from those ingredients, and materials to grow vegetables at home, as well as COVID safety items like masks.

But it’s not just a lifeline for those who receive the food; it’s also critical for those who grow it.

“I was really intentional about wanting to support small, family farms, small BIPOC-owned (Black, Indigenous, people of color) farms, small businesses,” Bangs said.

Larger farms tend to have contracts with grocery chains, which have sustained those farms through the pandemic.

“Traditionally, most of all the produce is purchased from corporate farmers, people who have the ability to be a little bit more well-known,” Bangs explained.

But smaller farms are left suffering due to the pandemic. Small restaurants that buy from their local farms have closed or reduced their hours, canceling their produce orders. And with fewer people getting out and less spending money flowing, farmers’ markets have suffered a drop in sales.

This is something Angel Mitchell noticed when she bought her Port Angeles-area farm, Angel’s Acres, last year.

“There was an existing customer base at the farmers’ market, but it wasn’t as strong as it had been in previous years,” she said. “Of course, numbers were down in 2020.”

It was a bold move to purchase a new business during a pandemic and recession, but Mitchell wanted to get into an industry that would feed people at a time when so many were going hungry.

Luckily, with its purchases of produce from Mitchell each week, the Plant Based Food Share helped make up for the loss in sales.

“That was such a blessing — I don’t know what we would’ve done without Plant Based Food Share in our first month of operating the farm,” Mitchell said. “Plant Based Food Share really stepped in and helped us build our capacity.”

That also meant far more food going to hungry people, instead of to waste.

“Being new farmers, we would be looking around and like, ‘Oh my gosh. We have 50 pounds of cucumbers. I didn’t even know these cucumbers were planted,'” she said. “Plant Based Food Share absolutely helped with reducing our food waste.”

In seeking out small and organic farms, the Plant Based Food Share especially focused on farms owned by people of color.

As Mitchell explained, the Black community does not have a history of owning land.

“The historic barriers for a lot of us with land, all of these things really kind of cut us off from being a part of an ecosystem,” she said.

And it comes full-circle. As food and seeds are delivered to BIPOC communities, they now get the chance to grow their own vegetables — even if it’s from the windowsill.

“We’re going to teach you how to grow your own food — which, because we’re not normally able to do that, because we don’t have property, that’s one gain,” Bangs explained. “The other is, you’re going to get really great produce that you can play around with every week.”

Bangs said they make a point of reaching out to BIPOC communities with the produce boxes because of the traditional difficulties that marginalized populations have had with getting healthy food.

“They’re not able to access the farmers, they’re not able to access the chefs or even the small businesses, because people are working, their heads down, they don’t really have a lot of money, it’s really expensive to live in Seattle,” Bangs said. “And if you live out of Seattle, then there’s another factor because how are you going to get the things? Maybe you don’t have a car, or maybe you work all the time.”

It’s an effort that has made a difference in lives across the Puget Sound.

“We are stronger together, and it’s good to go out on a limb and support people that you don’t consider first,” Mitchell said.

Now, the Plant Based Food Share is celebrating its first birthday this week — after getting food to 35,000 people in the greater Seattle area in that first year. And the movement shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

“It’s been really amazing just how this has transformed, where we thought [at first], ‘Oh, we’ll probably get food to like 20 people,’ which we did when we started,” Bangs said. “And then it just kept growing.”

To fuel that expansion, the Plant Based Food Share is in need of volunteers and donations — including donations of food, soil, and farm equipment. You can sign up to lend your help — or to receive a food box — at the Plant Based Food Share’s website.

MyNorthwest News

Photo: Starting this fall, students at Seattle's Hamilton International Middle School will have to ...

Julia Dallas

Seattle school to say goodbye to cell phones in the fall

Starting this fall, students at Seattle's Hamilton International Middle School will have to lock up their cell phones during school hours.

23 minutes ago

Image: A dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is displayed at the Neighborcare Health cli...

Sam Campbell and Steve Coogan

Measles case reported at West Seattle clinic; know the symptoms

A child, now confirmed to have measles, went to the Franciscan Health Urgent Care clinic in West Seattle, officials said in a release Friday.

1 hour ago

Image: The Supreme Court building can be seen from a distance on Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Washin...

Associated Press

Supreme Court strikes down Trump-era ban on bump stocks, gun accessory

The Supreme Court has struck down a ban on bump stocks, an accessory that allows semi-automatic weapons to fire rapidly like machine guns.

7 hours ago

Image: A multi-vehicle collision including a semitruck on Interstate 5 in Fife slowed down traffic ...

Steve Coogan

1 killed in multi-vehicle crash on I-5 south in Fife; morning traffic affected

The Washington State Patrol is on the scene of a deadly multi-vehicle crash that occurred on I-5 south in Pierce County early Friday.

8 hours ago

Lynnwood...

Julia Dallas

90 Lynnwood residents — mostly seniors — on verge of homelessness

Seattle Morning News' Dave Ross speaks with the Lynnwood City Council president on protecting residents who live in manufactured home communities and are seeing massive rent increases on the land their homes sit on. 

21 hours ago

Image: Members of the Makah Indian tribe paddle away from the rising sun as they head from Neah Bay...

Associated Press

Washington’s Makah Tribe clears major hurdle toward resuming traditional whale hunts

The U.S. granted the Makah Indian Tribe a long-sought waiver that helps clear the way for its first sanctioned whale hunts since 1999.

1 day ago

Plant Based Food Share supports small farms, feeds families in recession