Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Hunger Initiative: High Tunnel at Mother Earth Farm

Hunger initiative update from the Hunger-Free Pierce County Collaborative:  Investing $8,157.63 for 1 high tunnel growing space at Emergency Food Network’s Mother Earth Farm.

Emergency Food Network’s Mother Earth Farm is an 8-acre organic farm that produces over 150,000 pounds of fresh produce and honey each year. All of the food produced at Mother Earth Farm goes directly to food banks where food-insecure families in Pierce County have access to fresh, healthy, organic, and locally-grown produce.

To expand MEF’s ability to produce food every month of the year, UWPC invested $8,157.63 to help them purchase their second high tunnel.

When Mother Earth Farm started, it was only able to distribute fresh produce 5 months of the year following a normal growing season. In 2015 with their first high tunnel in use, they had already distributed 24,000 pounds of food by that time. This more than tripled production during summer months, and helped Mother Earth Farm grow sensitive crops like tomatoes that are in high demand at food banks. 

"Last year when we didn’t have the hoop house that we have we had, by July we had distributed 7000 pounds of food. This July, because we had the hoop house, we distributed 24,000 pounds of food." Helen McGovern-Pilant (Emergency Food Network)

However, the greatest benefit of the high tunnel will come when it is able to produce food year round—even during winter months. During winter months, it can be very difficult for a low-income family to acquire fresh and healthy food. Mother Earth Farm’s season extension will allow them to access healthy, local produce year around.

Helping MEF purchase their second high tunnel has had such a huge impact on the farm, it has also allowed them to bring their seasonal assistant on full-time and acquire another grant to purchase two additional hoop houses to expand their indoor growing spaces.

"... it allowed us to go out and get a grant for two more growing spaces. So now we will have two high tunnels and two low tunnels. Big changes." -Helen McGovern-Pilant (Emergency Food Network)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Hunger Initiative: South Outreach & SNAP

Hunger-Free Pierce County Collaborative initiative: investing in South Outreach and their ability to connect our neighbors in need with their Basic Food program and SNAP assistance

For the 200,000 residents in Pierce County who are eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) but have not yet enrolled in the program, signing up could be the difference between putting a healthy meal on the table or going hungry. SNAP offers nutrition assistance to eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities. 

SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net, providing an electronic benefits card (EBT) to purchase groceries at stores and fresh produce at farmers markets. 
Basic Food is one of the only areas of work at Sound Outreach where there is not a staff member dedicated specifically to helping sign people up. Understaffed, they are only able to process 5 SNAP applications each week. This means that out of the 200,000 Pierce County residents who qualify, only 250 people can be reached each year.

Signing people up for SNAP has more benefits than just helping a family put food on the table. The more Tacoma-Pierce County residents there are receiving SNAP benefits, the more funding from DSHS Sound Outreach receives, enabling them to expand their services.

When South Sound came requesting funding for the coordinator position, they made a clear statement regarding the impact this position would have...

"Our Basic Food Coordinator will increase the number of interns and volunteers to sign people up for SNAP and conduct outreach in the following areas throughout Pierce County:

Food Banks
Community Centers
Health Fairs
Senior Centers
Other nonprofits working with low-income families (YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, Health Centers, etc)

UWPC invested $15,000 to help Sound Outreach hire a full-time Basic Food Outreach Coordinator. While this will only cover the first few months of this position, the position eventually pays for itself as an increase in SNAP applications means an increase in funding from DSHS for Sound Outreach. 

UWPC’s $15,000 is not only helping to create a paying job for a Pierce County resident, but it is also going to be solely responsible for 336 of the SNAP applications and nearly $900,000 of the economic activity that will result from them. Since helping them hire a full-time Basic Food Outreach Coordinator, they are now able to process 20-30 applications each week which could generate up to $1.7 million in purchasing power for low-income Pierce County families in the first year alone

Click here for more information on applying for SNAP benefits through Sound Outreach

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

City of Tacoma as a Premier Partner

The City of Tacoma is another one of our highlighted Premier Partners. The City of Tacoma has been a long standing workplace campaign participant and Premier Partner of ours. Last year they raised $72,886 in Employee Giving. And have even raised $310,297 over the past 5 years!

Some of their awards include: 2014 Nominee for UWPC Campaign of the Year Award for Public Sector & 2013 Overall Campaign of the Year Winner.

Greer Todhunter, UWPC Resource Development Officer says, "The City of Tacoma ran a very well-organized campaign with three chairs and department coordinators, which lead them to the most successful United Way drive they have had in the past 7 years. Just over last year they increased the amount of participants by 45% (over $90,000!) and overall dollars by 25%, thanks to tremendous effort by individual departments and incentives such as a signed Russell Wilson football."

Monday, February 1, 2016

Strong Families: Jose's Story

As a young boy, Jose was taught by his parents to give back. He was always the guy in the office collecting food or leading the fundraiser. 

However, when he was laid off unexpectedly, Jose soon found himself relying on the programs he had supported. Unprepared for a 40 percent cut to their income, Jose and his wife Lori couldn’t make ends meet.

 “We were fighting to feed our children. We were fighting to keep our home,” said Lori. 

That’s when they turned to FISH Food Bank for help. The nutritious food provided by their weekly trips to the food bank, helped stretch their income and stabilize their family. 
Watch Jose's Story 

“Suddenly, I found myself using the resources I had helped,” explained Jose. “United Way can make a difference.” 

With a little more time on his hands, Jose also continued his passion for giving back by volunteering at the food bank every week. FISH Food Banks is just one of the many programs receiving funding from United Way of Pierce County. 

By focusing on programs that help young children and their families, we can remove the barriers preventing them from breaking the cycle of poverty.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Celebrate Opportunity for Working Washington Families

Today we’re celebrating. We’re celebrating a proven tool that helps thousands of workers in Washington keep more of what they earn to pay for things like reliable transportation to get to work, child care, housing and food.  We’re celebrating that Congress took action at the end of 2015 to save this resource.  We’re tipping our hat to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and what it means to working families in Pierce County.

Research finds that the EITC encourages work, supports family financial stability and leads to long-term gains in child health and academic success.  

Beyond the data, we see the power of the credit firsthand because United Way of Pierce County, our community partners, and hundreds of volunteers each year take action to connect hundreds of people to the EITC. 

We’re thankful that Congress took action at the end of last year to save this vital resource for millions of working Americans.

And as tax season kicks off, we want to make sure that our community connects to the credits through VITA and MyFreeTaxes.com, a site where individuals or families earning $62,000 or less in 2015 can file their state and local taxes for free online. 

So celebrate with us today.  Thank Congress, check out MyFreeTaxes.com, and spread the good word online (#EITCAwarenessDay). Cheers! 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Doctor says Read

At United Way of Piece County, we want to ensure that all our children are physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively ready to participate and learn in school. And learning begins at birth. For pediatricians like Dr. Maryann Woodruff, making sure parents know this and are reading to their child from day one is as much a priority as their physical development.
“There is a need to help families understand the real importance of early literacy,” explains Dr. Woodruff, a pediatrician at Pediatrics Northwest and the co-lead responsible for bringing the Reach Out and Read program to Pierce County.

Through Reach Out and Read, a program receiving funding from United Way of Pierce County, children are given a book at each well-child visit to the doctor’s office. Additionally, the parents are given tools and techniques to incorporate learning into the child’s play.

“The more children are read to...the better they are going to learn and the more ready they are going to be.” Dr. Woodruff continues, “I want the community to know how important reading aloud is. For me, the books are just as important as my stethoscope.”

Today Reach Out and Read Washington is in 30 counties, over 145 medical practices, endorsed by over 1000 medical providers and served 86,000 children and families during 157,000 well-child checkups in 2013.  It sounds pretty impressive (and it is) but there are so many more children who could benefit from this program. 

Reach Out and Read only serves 20 percent of eligible children in Washington State. In other words, four out of five children are not served.  Dr. Woodruff’s vision is for this program to reach all the kids in our state. To get there, it will take additional funding and community support. Reach Out and Read and Pierce County are lucky to have Dr. Woodruff on their team because her passion and enthusiasm for this program is infectious.

Through Reach Out and Read, parents are taught to be their child’s first teacher and equipped with the tools to put them on a path to success. Reach Out and Read is just one of the many programs receiving funding from United Way of Pierce County.