EDMONDS, Wash., June 6, 2023—Representative Rick Larsen met with Edmonds School District Superintendent Rebecca Miner and two community partners—Nourishing Network and Edmonds Hub—on June 2, to understand the district’s unique budget challenges and to learn how the community comes together to provide nutritious meals to students and families to prevent hunger.
Also, during his visit, approximately 150 students at Edmonds-Woodway High School, primarily juniors and seniors enrolled in history and civics classes, spoke with the congressman about climate change, the feasibility of electric vehicles, the art of passing bipartisan legislation, Tribal reparations, and a day-in-the-life of a member of Congress.
The Nourishing Network that started as a weekend program to feed homeless students, has expanded to a series of meals programs to include weekend meals, holiday meals, seven monthly pop-up pantries, and summer meals. Last year, Nourishing Network served 9,483 weekend meals to 360 Edmonds School District students each week, as well as a total of 5,758 summer meals.
“Last year through just weekend meals and pop-up pantries, we distributed nearly 90,000 pounds of food just through those two programs,” Deborah Brandi, the Foundation for Edmonds School District Executive Director, told the Lynnwood Times.
Nourishing Network has forty church partners to assist with “food, fun, and friend drives” Brandi shared, and its program wouldn’t be near as impactful to so many families without their biggest partner, Volunteers of America of Western Washington.
“VOA is honored to be partnered with Nourishing Network,” Mountlake Terrace Councilman and Foundation for Edmonds School District Board member Dr. Steve Woodard told the Lynnwood Times. “Our needs are very similar, and our interests are the same — keeping our community members fed and nourished.”
During his tour of the pantry, Brandi shared the hardship families are still facing after the pandemic.
“We really worked hard with VOA to help get families connected to rent assistance and other wrap around services,” she said.
In the post-pandemic era, according to Brandi, inflation has contributed to the high cost of food and in general, the cost of living, resulting in families forced to share living spaces to keep a roof over their heads.
“We are seeing two or three families doubling up in a single one-bedroom home or single-wide mobile,” Brandi told the Lynnwood Times. “Our weekend meal kits now include a family staple item—such as pasta and sauce—to ensure a family has some food to eat during the week.”
Besides providing a meal, latent benefits the Nourishing Network program are to allow families to focus on work and students on education.
During the federal debt ceiling debt, the issue of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, was front and center. The net result of negotiations approved in Congress last week and signed by President Joe Biden on Saturday, June 3, will provide an additional 78,000 people per month food stamps.
“We got rid of work requirements for veterans to get food stamps, for housing insecure individuals — not only homeless but also those living in a shelter and those living with people, but it is not their home — and kids coming out of foster care up until they are 24 years of age,” Rep. Larsen shared with Brandi and other attendees on the Nutrition Network pantry tour.
Last Congress, Larsen and the late Representative Don Young of Alaska introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure more children get regular, healthy meals.
The Nutrition Network would not be possible without grants from Verdant Health Commission, Hazel Miller Foundation, and Safeco Insurance Foundation.
“Since COVID, partnerships have been a staple,” Dr. Woodard shared. “We can’t do this alone.”
To participate in the summer meals program, visit https://foundationesd.org/nonprofit-programs/nourishing-network/.