Questions & Answers About the 2020 Annual Auction Fund-A-Need: COVID Food Relief Project

Nov 4, 2020 | Auction, COVID, Justice, Parent Resources

Learn more here about how you can give, learn, and serve in the COVID Food Relief Project

Here is an overview of the project.

Why is this project the Fund-a-Need? 

Our Board and Auction team voted to approve an engaging, community response project for the Fund-A-Need. We want our community to grow together in serving and giving to the local Eastside community, and connecting with organizations and people to help make a difference, today! 

What does this project have to do with Unitarian Universalism? 

This project has everything to do with Unitarian Universalism and East Shore! We are a faith of open mind, loving hearts, and helping hands. Our Unitarian Universalist principles call on us to respect all who are in need, offer fair and kind treatment, and act on our ideals. We believe in the bounty of the Earth, the generosity of spirit, and the inherent worth and dignity of every person. 

Unitarian Universalist congregations come together to answer the call for justice, and right now, COVID-19 is a justice issue. Food insecurity, always an issue, has been made worse by the COVID pandemic. The COVID Food Relief Project serves our neighbors in the community we are a part of – Bellevue and the Eastside – who are in need of direct food support. By working to eliminate the anxiety and challenges of getting food on the table, East Shore helps to support interconnection and growth in the local community. 

How is this different from what ESUC already does to serve needs? 

The COVID Food Relief Project builds on East Shore’s strong legacy of food insecurity efforts, whether it’s the P-Patch, Sophia’s Way, or Crossroads Meals. This project differs in that it is an appeal for mission-driven church wide giving that also includes learning and sharing opportunities. It is focused on relieving an imminent need and offering our congregants a path towards spiritual growth and community building through service to others.

When we pool our community’s time, treasure, and talent and pour it into the vibrant community of nonprofits and community agencies, we serve our neighbors. Lending a helping hand and engaging in relationships outside our church walls helps to build stronger local communities. 

Is this project anti-racist? 

A disproportionate number of people needing food relief are people of color. In King County, Latinx, Black, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander populations are disproportionately represented among callers to 211 seeking food assistance. By August of this year, 31% of callers seeking assistance with food identified as Black and 21% of callers identified as Latinx, when 7% of the overall King County population identify as Black and 10% identify as Latinx. By working to address food insecurity, ESUC is also working to dismantle inequity and white supremacy.  

What is Food Insecurity in Western Washington?

You can tell by reading about our partner organizations, food insecurity is alive and well in Western Washington and King County. Learn more now about why those organizations exist. Food insecurity occurs when individuals or households lack reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. The CEO of Food Lifeline said on September 10, 2020 that the number of people facing hunger has doubled since the pandemic started and we likely haven’t seen the worst yet. Potentially one in five Washingtonians could be facing hunger by the end of the year. About half the people in Western Washington who are turning to the food bank system have not needed to use the system before. 

Since strategies to slow the spread of COVID-19 were implemented, families with children are particularly at risk of food insecurity. National and state policies have enabled new resources or expanded existing resources, but some are set to expire. For example, the CARES Act money has ended and the WA State Legislature won’t be convening until January.

Sometimes families that are homeless need food, and sometimes families that are housed need additional food support. This food support may be in addition to other state and federal benefits, and helps to fill the gaps of those programs. 

How much of a need is there for Food Relief in King County?

Even before COVID-19, 12% of King County adults experienced food insecurity. Among those who did receive free food, the most common sources of free food were:

  • a school or other program for children (the percent varied by week, ranging between 28%- 67% of adults reporting that their household received free food); 
  • a community organization (ranged from 13%-45%); 
  • friends, family or neighbors (ranged between 18%-36%); 
  • and a food bank or food pantry (ranged between 11%-33%). 

Tell me more about why the COVID Food Relief Project Partners were chosen:

Working within the existing network of community organizations is the best way to maximize our dollar and time. It is a way to interact with other faith communities with a common purpose. All of the partners and projects chosen can be done during COVID restrictions with precautions and safety measures considered.

Covid Food Relief Project Partners Info & Links

Mobile Meal Alliance: The Mobile Meal Alliance is a food truck meal voucher program. Organization funds donated by a church or other non profit entity are converted into food truck meal vouchers that are given to individuals and families in need of food support.  Food trucks are then scheduled by the state food truck association to be hosted at churches, food banks or other residential area businesses.  East Shore will work with the Bellevue School District Family Connection Centers to distribute meal vouchers to children, youth, and families who are experiencing food insecurity. East Shore would host a food truck and welcome neighbors, voucher holders, and our own congregants to a meal.

Backpack Meals for Kids: The school meal program started off in the 1960s by the Black Panthers as one of their 10 point programs. It has since grown into a huge national effort to make sure that during the week, all children in school are given access to free or reduced cost breakfasts and lunches. For many Bellevue School District kids, the only meals they get are at school. On the weekends, they don’t have enough to eat. When children are hungry, everything else is harder, including learning. This program is working to fill that gap; Backpack Meals for Kids provides free, easy-to-make food packs and meals so children have food to eat over the weekend. During COVID-19, Bellevue School District has had to close many of their resources that families rely on. Right now, only two Family Connection Centers (FCC) are open: at Stevenson Elementary and Lake Hills Elementary. These are where Backpack Meals for Kids distribute their weekend meal packs for prek-12. Backpack Meals for Kids buys prepackaged weekend meal packs and stores them in their Bellevue Warehouse for weekly distribution. The program does pack pre-K meal packs on a monthly basis. East Shore would host volunteer parties for hands on packing.

Jubilee Reach: Groceries for Families began in March to serve families financially affected by the pandemic. Over 25 organizations and churches have partnered with Jubilee REACH to provide families with groceries, hygiene items, and supplies. Spaced out over three days a week, nearly 700 families come on either Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday to pick up bags of pantry and staple items. What began as an 8 week program, grew to 12 weeks, stretched through the summer and then continued into the fall and winter. Jubilee REACH also partnered with BelPres to fund a food truck on site. Jubilee REACH does not, outside of COVID, provide food to families, but does serve the needs of families, youth, and children in other capacities, such as job training and English Language Learning. For now, this grocery program is essential. East Shore would be able to pre-puchase items for the grocery bags, pack at our church, and then volunteer to help distribute at their site location, just 2 miles east of East Shore. Depending on our funding, we will be able to determine how many grocery bags per week ESUC can contribute ongoing.

Food Bank Farm: Located in Snohomish county, just across the road from Bob’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin patch, this ten year old farm grows food for Food Banks and works to support other farms and farmers in gleaning efforts to help bring even more food to the food banks. Started by Fr. Jim Eichner and funded as a ministry of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross in Redmond. This project delivers most of its food to food banks through the organization Food Lifeline, but also works with Hopelink Food Bank, who harvests food once a week as well. Volunteer individuals and teams harvest the food, and during COVID, also help to pack it directly into large produce bags to eliminate the need for food bank sorting. Food Bank Farm shares land on Chinook Farms with Lowland Farm and One Leaf Farm. During winter months, Food Bank Farm will be welcoming volunteers to harvest beets, and sign ups for Field Trips through East Shore will be provided.

Tell me more about how the Auction Fund-a-Need dollars will be spent

The Covid Food Relief Steering Team will determine how the dollars raised at the 2020 Auction will be spent. The team’s choices will be impacted by both how much money is raised and how many volunteers support volunteer activities. Consider how you might give to this project, and what impact you’d like East Shore to make on food insecurity on the Eastside. By giving generously, you help to ensure that the groundwork the Steering team has laid will be put to good use. All of our partner organizations are excited and looking forward to our contributions to this good work. 

Ways we will use allocated funds:

  • Cash donation to Backpack Meals for Kids to pay for pre K-12 weekend food packs. A group of ESUC volunteers also can work to put the packs together. One weekend food pack for kids preK-12 costs $6. Backpack delivers about 680 food packs a week. 
  • To pay for prebagged groceries directly which would then be packed and delivered by ESUC volunteers to Jubilee Reach. Packing can happen at ESUC and be delivered as a group effort. One family grocery bag costs $35. Jubilee Reach distributes nearly 700 of those per week. 
  • To pay for meal vouchers through Mobile Meal Alliance. ESUC volunteers would then host a food truck at church and neighbors and ESUC congregants would join voucher holders in purchasing a lunch or dinner. One food truck voucher, distributed at the Bellevue School District Family Connection Centers, costs $10. To feed a group of 50, which is approximately 12 families, costs $500.
  • Cash donation to Food Bank Farm. Donate money for seeds and other farm supplies to grow food that is given to food banks. One bunch of beets is about $2. Food Bank Farm donated 360,000 pounds of food last year to food banks in our area. ESUC can offer a field trip for families, children and youth, adults of all ages to go to the field and harvest beets. 

I really love this project, how can I support it?

We’re so happy to hear that! We need people at every level to get engaged and involved. We want GIVERS, LEARNERS, AND SERVERS! And, you can be them all! You don’t just have to pick one way of engaging. If you’re able, we invite you to consider giving generously to this project during the Auction! Help continue making East Shore connected to its local community in a visible and profound way! If you’re motivated by having a sense of the bigger picture, of helping out your community, and by having fun and learning throughout, come volunteer in our efforts! 

What are the different ways of getting involved and volunteering?

Inspired by the success of East Shore Gets Out the Vote, COVID Food Relief Project offers a variety of simple ways for congregants of all ages to give, learn, and serve the need for food relief. There’s room on both the Steering team and for one-time volunteer roles. 

  • Do you want to help with a one-time position, like attending a food truck event on campus or volunteering during a beet harvest? 
  • Do you want to partner with the Steering Team to coordinate one of those events? 
  • Do you like to do volunteer outreach? 
  • Want to help this project in some way, but don’t know how? OR 
  • Want to help this project in a way that we haven’t listed? 

Get in touch! Contact amanda alice uluhan or Grace Colton  to indicate you are interested in volunteering for the COVID Food Relief Project Team.

A volunteer at Jubilee Reach said about their experience:

  I was overwhelmed by the scope, and “reach” of Jubilee Reach.  Thousands and thousands of families/individuals were positively touched on just one day.   I had no idea.  I was impressed by a number of factors- the collaboration of church bodies on the Eastside, the number of families from each of those churches, the ability, of someone, to materially include non-church groups and obtain enormous assistance from Sysco/USDA.  The leadership is virtually omnipresent, as well as omniscient.  Also, to realize that there is that magnitude of need in Bellevue and environs. Wow, wow.“

How safe is it to participate in the COVID Food Relief Project? I want to be able to protect myself from the risk of COVID. 

How safe is it to participate in the COVID Food Relief Project? I want to be able to protect myself from the risk of COVID.

Only you can decide the degree of risk you are willing to take. The ways to participate with the least amount of risk are to volunteer from home and financially donating to this project or volunteering from home to  would be for many the options with the least amount of risk. All our project partners have set up protocols and processes that comply with WA State guidelines. Participating in activities coordinated in groups will mean traveling to/from a site on your own or with people you are already living with, and volunteering with social distancing at the site.

Get in touch! Contact amanda alice uluhan or Grace indicate you are interested in volunteering for the COVID Food Relief Project Team.

Sources for this article:

  4. October 29, 2020 Jubilee Reach Newsletter from Ken Carpenter