Distributing food, spreading joy
Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Last fall, Common Threads’ AmeriCorps Food Educators explored the environmental concept of adaptation with third-graders, using thorny plants and brightly colored critters as examples. We never could have predicted that this spring, in the midst of COVID-19, our community would experience a firsthand exercise in adapting to our own rapidly changing environment.
School closures have pushed Common Threads to adapt the way we use our gardens to serve students’ needs. Right now, our priority is to help get fresh, nutritious food in the bellies of kids who need it most. And to do that, we have turned our school gardens into small-scale production farms to grow fresh produce for families in need.
To distribute this produce, Common Threads has coordinated with low-income housing complexes and the Bellingham Public School District’s food distribution program. The response from the families taking home our crunchy carrots and crisp greens has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Families have been really excited to get extra veggies and even more excited to learn that it comes from our garden,” Food Educator Abby Counihan says. “Produce distribution gets food directly from our gardens into students’ kitchens, making the seed-to-table connection even more apparent.”
Common Threads’ Food Educators are also modeling adaptation as their service activities have changed significantly from the beginning of the year.
“I feel fulfilled in my work,” Common Threads school farmer JP Belanger says. “I find solace in knowing that the food we grow is going to those who need it most—families who may not have access to fresh food otherwise.”
Being unable to connect with students in the classroom and school garden this spring filled us with a sense of loss. This, however, makes the rare moments when we have gotten to reconnect with our students from a safe distance at food distribution sites all the sweeter.
“One student walked up with his mom and it was the first time I’d seen him in a while,” Counihan says. “We got to catch up a little bit and I offered him some garden produce. When I offered him [some] strawberries, he got a huge smile and started jumping up and down.”
At Common Threads, being able to support our community by using our resources creatively to provide some nourishment and joy amid the uncertainty is what drives us to keep planting, harvesting and smiling behind our masks.
“It’s especially great to hear how families plan to use the food,” Counihan says, “whether that’s the salad that they’re going to add to their meal that night or the lovage that they tried for the first time and loved so much they put it in everything.”
Just as our students learned last fall, while environments may be challenging, the adaptations that arise from adversity—whether they’re brightly colored butterflies or school gardens with newfound purpose—can be truly beautiful.
Caroline Boschetto is an AmeriCorps Food Educator. To find out more about how families or individuals can sign up for socially distanced school garden volunteer sessions and about Common Threads’ mission to connect kids to healthy food in the garden, in the kitchen and at the table, go to http://www.commonthreadsfarm.org
[Wed., July 15]
SEDRO MARKET: The Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market continues today from 3pm-7pm at Heritage Square. Health and safety protocols are in place in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the market is still committed to bring fresh, local food and products to residents and neighbors Wednesdays through Oct. 14.
For more info: http://www.sedrowoolleyfarmersmarket.com
[Thurs., July 16]
FOOD FOR STUDENTS: Various Western Washington University entities will be offering free food pickup from 12pm-2pm every Thursday through Sept. 24 at Vendors’ Row in the Viking Commons. Wear a face mask and bring your WWU student ID to pick up a bag of nonperishables and a box of farm-fresh organic produce. Walk-through, bike-through and drive-through contactless pickup options are available, as are vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free choices. For any disability or allergy accommodations, contact the email listed below.
[Fri., July 17]
FERNDALE MARKET: The Ferndale Farmers Market continues today from 2pm-6pm in the parking lot next to the Grocery Outlet. If you’re interested in helping them grow, head over—and don’t forget your safety standards.
For more info: http://www.ferndalepublicmarket.org
[Sat., July 18]
ANACORTES MARKET: The Anacortes Farmers Market is open from 9am-2pm at the Depot Arts Center, 611 R Ave. Their rules include following and obeying all signs, markers, barriers and instructions from market staff or volunteers.
For more info: http://www.anacortesfarmersmarket.org
MOUNT VERNON MARKET: The Mount Vernon Farmers Market takes place from 9am-2pm Saturdays through Oct. 20 at Riverwalk Park, 501 Main St. Only 25 customers are allowed in at a time to peruse the goods. Check their website beforehand to find out which farmers will be in attendance each week, then get inspired to make a meal plan.
For more info: http://www.mountvernonfarmersmarket.org
TWIN SISTERS MARKET: The Twin Sisters Market continues its fifth season from 9am-3pm at Nugent’s Corner, and 10am-2pm in Maple Falls at the North Fork Library. In addition to having protocols in place to keep the community healthy, Foothills folks who are accustomed to picking up a diverse array of high-quality produce grown nearby should know they can still expect to find great prices—by taking turns having the farmers staff the market, they’re able to keep prices low for East Whatcom County residents.The markets continue Saturdays through Oct. 23.
For more info http://www.twinsistersmarket.com
CONCRETE MARKET: The Concrete Saturday Market takes place from 10am-1pm at the Concrete Community Center, 45821 Railroad St. Posted signage will direct shoppers to follow safety guidelines, and, for now, it’s a drive-in, farmers-only market. Artisans and crafters may return when safety restrictions are lifted, so keep an ear open for updates.
For more info: http://www.concretesaturdaymarket.com
BELLINGHAM MARKET: Attend the Bellingham Farmers Market from 10am-2pm Saturdays at the Depot Market Square, 1100 Railroad Ave. At the modified market, social distancing is strongly enforced, patrons are not allowed to touch the food, and a limited number of vendors are allowed on site. Entertainment, music and eating areas have been suspended until further notice, and masks are mandatory. Please stay home if you are sick, and be prepared with small bills to offer exact change to vendors when possible.
For more info: http://www.bellinghamfarmers.org
BLAINE MARKET: The annual Blaine Gardeners Market continues from 10am-2pm Saturdays through October at the city’s G Street Plaza. Due to social distancing requirements, vendor booths will be spread out.
For more info: http://www.blainechamber.com
[Sun., July 19]
BIRCHWOOD FARMERS MARKET: Find locally grown vegetables, flowers, fruits and other goods from more than 10 growers and producers in Whatcom County at the Birchwood Farmers Market happening from 9am-2pm every Sunday through October at the Park Manor Shopping Center, 1538 Birchwood Ave. The cooperative single-stand market is dedicated to increasing food access in the Birchwood neighborhood by providing fresh, sustainably-grown produce at a reduced prices. When attending the market, please wear a face mask and keep social distancing in mind.
For more info: http://www.birchwoodfarmersmarket.com