Community Conversation

Fighting hunger from the ground up


What: "Community Conversation: Skagit Food Distribution Center and Local Food Resiliency"

Where: Via Zoom


WHEN: 12pm-1pm Thurs., Oct. 22

Cost: Free


Wednesday, October 7, 2020

In a “regular” year, the Skagit Food Distribution Center in Sedro-Woolley distributes 1.5 million pounds of food to 15 local food banks and four hot meal programs that serve as many as 45,000 Skagit County residents. They further serve vulnerable populations by coordinating healthy food delivery to homebound seniors and weekend lunches for schoolkids.

Of course, 2020 is no typical year. In early spring, as COVID-19 upended the world as we know it, the percentage of food provided by the distribution hub skyrocketed as the need increased. Many people who’d never used a food bank before found themselves without the resources to keep themselves and their families fed, and the center was scrambling to keep up.

In mid-April, Community Action of Skagit County—the Mount Vernon-based nonprofit that oversees the SFDC—reported that a $100,000 grant from the Jack & Shirley McIntyre Foundation had been earmarked for the center. At the time, Food Manager Cole Bitzenburg also noted that as the pandemic continued, cash donations would be preferable to food donations, as even a $1 contribution can pay for up to seven pounds of food.

At the community-owned Skagit Valley Food Co-op in downtown Mount Vernon, members of the organic and natural food grocer heeded the call for help, and stepped up to the plate.

“At the outset of COVID-19, we heard the same question from several of our member-owners: ‘How can we help?’” Marketing and Outreach Director Nicole Vander Meulen says. “In response, we made it even easier for Co-op member-owners to donate their annual patronage refunds (dividends) to Community Action’s Skagit Food Distribution Center. We were able to donate more than $10,000 to support the Distribution Center’s ongoing work to feed the hungry in our community.”

Vander Meulen further explains that the SFDC purchases produce whose high demand is rarely matched by donations—including beets, cabbage, carrots, green bean, tomatillos, chilacayotes, and more. They also make “opportunity purchases” that support area farmers.

“When a farm has a buyer for produce, but the deal falls through, SFDC steps in as a buyer so farmers can cover their costs, while still allowing SFCD to obtain top-quality produce at a discount for distribution,” she says. “Because produce’s shelf life is much shorter than shelf-stable products, SFDC must store and deliver this produce quickly to ensure freshness. It’s a joy to know that not only will our donation help relieve hunger, it will help provide food that is healthy and fresh while supporting local farmers.”

During a virtual Community Conversation taking place Thurs., Oct. 22, Co-op members and neighbors can find out more about the Skagit Food Distribution Center and local food resiliency when Bitzenburg discusses the many ways the center is serving the community during these trying times, and outline ways that people can help. He’ll be joined by Tony White, the Skagit Valley Food Co-op General Manager, who will share highlights about what the grocer is currently doing to keep all Skagitonians fed.

Those listening in on the conversation will be invited to contribute ideas about how to make the community more food-resilient, and share insights about how they think the Skagit Co-op can be part of that. While you may not come away with all of the answers, you’ll be better equipped to fight hunger from the ground up.


[Wed., Oct. 7]

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 bringing fresh, local food and products to residents and neighbors Wednesdays through Oct. 14.
For more info:

[Oct. 7-11]

APPLE PICKING: Choose from 22 varieties of apples and find pumpkins at U-pick happenings from 10am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday at Bellewood Farms & Distillery, 6140 Guide Meridian. The events continue weekly through Oct. 31. COVID-19 recommendations will be followed.
For more info:

[Fri., Oct. 9]

FINAL FERNDALE MARKET: The Ferndale Farmers Market concludes its season today from 2pm-6pm in the parking lot next to the Grocery Outlet, 1750 LaBounty Dr.
For more info:

[Oct. 9-31]

FALL FRUIT EXTRAVAGANZA: Stock up on fresh fruit, vegetables and nursery products at a Fall Fruit Extravaganza taking place through October at Everson’s Cloud Mountain Farm Center, 6906 Goodwin Rd. Every Friday through Tuesday through October, place orders online or over the phone for five-pound bags of apples, pears, gallons of fresh apple cider, grapes and a variety of squash. Additionally, “Farmers’ Choice” Tasting Boxes can be had for $20. Pickup takes place Thursday through Saturday.
For more info:

[Sat., Oct. 10]

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:

ANACORTES MARKET: The Anacortes Farmers Market is open from 9am-2pm Saturdays through Oct. 31 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:

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. 31.
For more info

BELLINGHAM MARKET: Attend the Bellingham Farmers Market from 10am-2pm Saturdays through December 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:

BLAINE MARKET: The annual Blaine Gardeners Market continues from 10am-2pm Saturdays through Oct. 31 at the city’s G Street Plaza. Due to social distancing requirements, vendor booths will be spread out.
For more info:

[Sun., Oct. 11]

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:

ALGER MARKET: Kids can vend for free at the final Alger Sunday Market taking place from 11am-4pm at Alger Community Hall, 18735 Parkview Lane. The low-key, barter-friendly neighborhood cooperative features produce, plants, artisan crafts and recycled and upcycled items to reuse. Drop-ins are welcome to “sell from your truck and make a buck,” but the number may be limited due to COVID-19 restrictions.
For more info: (360) 724-0340





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