Community News

Creativity and Collaboration: The Southwest Washington Food Hub

In the midst of our struggles this year, we have also found reasons to hope as people come together in response to COVID-19. The Southwest Washington Food Hub is one beautiful example of how creativity, collaboration, and hard work have made a difference. The Community Foundation was grateful to play a small part in launching this effort. We're excited to share it with you and hope it serves as a meaningful snapshot of our region's resilience.

The bare shelves and supply chain disruptions we experienced this year took many of us by surprise. Others had noticed the flaws in our food system and were already working to strengthen and build local capacity. The idea for the SW WA Food Hub emerged long before COVID-19. Local farmers and folks working in economic development and food systems knew our region could benefit from a Food Hub—a one-stop-shop owned by participating farmers where they could sell their products online to local institutions like restaurants, colleges, and hospitals, as well as individual consumers. Together, they agreed to go for it, began the slow process of planning, and started laying the groundwork.

Then, 2020 hit and things got real in a hurry. As unemployment rose, an increasing number of families lost both jobs and food security. Meanwhile, sales shut down in key markets like restaurants and cafeterias, causing immense strain for producers. Having a strong regional food system became a clear and urgent priority. The Food Hub implementation accelerated.

The Southwest Washington Food Hub (currently a coalition of ten farms coordinated by the Thurston Economic Development Council, WSU Thurston County Extension, and Northwest Agriculture Business Center) quickly adapted to the new reality and prepared to launch in mid-August. A USDA grant provided most of the start-up funding for the project. Along with two of our donor advised funds, the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound also helped fund the project's launch. We were excited to collaborate with our donor advisors on this and also to know that our relatively modest contribution would have a far-reaching impact.

So far, the results have been impressive. The moment it launched, the Food Hub swung into action, partnering with PacMountain Workforce Development Council to implement a Regional Food Security Box Program. This partnership allows the Food Hub to do a number of very cool things. They're purchasing fresh food from local farmers and hiring dislocated workers to deliver that food every week to about 100 out-of-work families. And, since food preparation and preservation training is the main goal of this program, families are gaining long-term skills to make the most of the food they receive.

It has been a joy for the Community Foundation to support this innovative, collaborative, and much-needed project—both now as it meets immediate needs and in the future as it contributes to a more resilient local food system and long-term nourishment to people in our communities.

October 13, 2020

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