The Hunger Coalition

Hunger Relief Organization

The Hunger Coalition (THC) not only strives to end hunger in the valley, but also works hard to ensure that those in need receive the freshest, most nutritious food available. Since launching The Hope Garden in 2010, THC has produced 7,460 pounds of organically grown vegetables, fruits and herbs for its Mobile Food Bank. Through its Grow Your Own garden mentoring program, community members receive a small private garden plot, along with plant materials, tools and workshops, and are encouraged to learn as much as possible about food production. In 2014, THC, in collaboration with The Sage School, recovered more than 4,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables from neighborhood trees and gardens as part of its Gleaning Program.

These efforts aren’t the work of one but rather a team of local food heroes. Here’s what they had to say when asked about their personal relationship to food:

How did you become interested in food? 
Sharon Dohse, client resource and education manager: I come from a long line of farmers and gardeners so I have always taken for granted that everyone had the same knowledge and access to locally grown food that I have. I’ve learned that this is definitely not the case. People in our community cannot afford food they need or do not know how to cook or how to meet basic nutritional needs. I see all of these scenarios as opportunities to introduce people—families, kids, the elderly—to our services and classes. I love how The Hunger Coalition values and offers healthy, fresh food and that our classes focus on how to select and prepare healthy, affordable and delicious meals.

What’s your definition of “good food”?
Hallie Reikowsky, garden and education manager: My definition of “good food” would be simple, whole foods that best contribute to both the body’s functions, to the producers of those foods, and to the community as a whole. Good food should help a person feel strong, healthy and energized, and help community members feel confident in their ability to take care of themselves and their family.

Naomi Spence, associate director: When I think of good food, I think about the process it went through to be prepared. In the past 7 years my family has taken on a massive family garden. My husband hunts and we only eat the meat he harvests, which we butcher and process on our own in our house. We do more and more food preservation each year, which involves my 5 year old daughter. When I think about why we have made this a priority (as it is time consuming and labor intensive) it gives us a reason to take more time to prepare our food. Our food is celebrated on a daily basis because we grew it and harvested it. When I the eat elk sausage I made from scratch—with the seasoning I carefully crafted—nothing in the world tastes better. When my daughter has a play date and offers her friends a pickle she canned with the cucumbers we grew in our garden, I know nothing tastes better to her. This is good food.

Who is your food hero?
Krista Felton, office manager: Jamie Oliver is my food hero. He’s brought so much awareness to improving school lunches and empowering our youth with knowledge about cooking and nutrition. He’s committed to helping people learn how to grow and cook with fresh, local ingredients and to have fun in the kitchen!

What is your biggest wish for food system change?
Brooke McKenna, director of operations: At The Hunger Coalition, we believe that providing basic food security lays the cornerstone on which people in need can build lives of greater economic security. For us, basic food security does not mean just accessing food; it means accessing the best possible food to help families and individuals thrive. Every day, we witness people having to sacrifice good nutrition to make ends meet.My wish for our food system is that a priority is set to ensure locally produced foods and healthy fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t a luxury affordable only to a few. Good nutrition leads to good health, and healthy adults, children and seniors are the building blocks for a thriving community.

What’s your favorite food to cook? 
Rachel Shinn, volunteer manager: It would be hard to pick one single dish that is my favorite to cook as I LOVE food. All of it. Equally. I can say, however, that my favorite type of food to cook is anything that comes directly from my garden or a local farmer’s market. There is something amazing about eating something that you see come from the earth after all of the hard work you’ve put in to make it grow. And the smell! Oh, the earthly smell of fresh carrots or beets, the sweet smell of a freshly cut pea pod or ear of corn. There is no comparison. If I could grow a garden for everyone on earth, I would.

Julie Molema, communications and development manager: I love eggs. The simplicity of an egg, all wrapped up in its own fragile shell is a perfection of nature. Farm fresh, locally-raised eggs are often my breakfast and dinner. I cook over-easy eggs, omelets and frittatas… poached eggs, scrambled eggs or whip up an egg salad–like I said, I love eggs! I’ll sauté fresh veggies to accompany my beautiful egg dish or make a small salad on the side. We always have half a dozen soft-boiled eggs in the refrigerator ready to eat and put in salads. (And yes, I do have my cholesterol checked regularly, and it’s always been low.) Eggs anyone?

What’s your end goal or what impact do you hope to have in terms of food? 

Jeanne Liston, executive director: The Hunger Coalition strives to end hunger in our community by providing wholesome food to those in need and by promoting solutions to the underlying causes of hunger through collaboration, education and advocacy. Our end goal is to ensure that everyone has access to healthy, local food. To ensure this, we are currently in the midst of a year-long Community Food Assessment. This is a broad based, participatory process that will produce a comprehensive analysis of the local food environment and will empower the community to create a secure food system. To learn more about this assessment, please click here.

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