Start of summer farmers market season brings healthy food access to Auburn community

CTGlogo2June 7 marks the opening of the Auburn Farmers Market. This year, building on last summer’s success, the market will continue to bring more affordable healthy food to residents.

Last summer, with the help of Washington Community Action Network (Washington CAN!), community leaders in Auburn piloted an innovative program at the farmers market—the Good Food Bag program—to address the lack of affordable healthy food.

Listening to community concerns
For far too many residents in our County, getting and eating healthy food requires overcoming the obstacles of having the time to prepare it and the funds to afford it. In parts of King County, those barriers are much more prevalent.

I can buy a 24-pack of Top Ramen for a couple of bucks and to me, I’m thinking—that’s 24 meals for my kids. Meanwhile, a pound of fresh fruits or vegetables is probably twice the price and only lasts a couple of days. –Auburn resident

Comments like this were collected by staff from Washington CAN! through a survey and focus groups in Auburn. Residents shared that Auburn has an abundance of cheap, unhealthy, fast food options and also lacks grocery stores. For some residents, underemployment and low-wage jobs with few benefits mean that they work longer hours, sometimes at multiple workplaces. This structural reality forces many to buy quick, easy, but unhealthy foods for themselves and their families.

About 80% of respondents to Washington CAN!’s survey said that they would eat more fresh fruits and vegetables if they were affordable.

Improving access through community involvement
Through their outreach work, Washington CAN! identified community members who wanted to get involved in improving the accessibility and affordability of healthy foods in Auburn. This team of nine community members formed the Healthy Auburn Action Team (HAAT) and together with the Auburn Food Bank, Seattle Tilth, King Conservations District and the Auburn Farmers Market, worked to help Auburn residents afford fresh produce.

Through the Good Food Bag program, community members were able to get $5 vouchers at the Auburn Food Bank or at an on-site booth at the Farmers Market to purchase a bag of fresh produce worth $10. Inside these bags, purchasers would also find tips and recipes for preparing the locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Program results
Over the course of the summer of 2014, the program provided Good Food Bags to hundreds of people.

We had many people from the community come back every week using the Good Food Bag letting us know that they really liked the program. Overall, people have really liked that there is work being done around the issue of expensive healthy foods. – Teresa Clark, Organizing Director at Washington CAN!

In addition, the program brought community members and organizations together in partnership, setting the stage for future work. This program serves as an important stepping stone to taking on larger systemic change around food and economic equity in Auburn and other parts of South King County.

Look for the Good Food Bag program at the Auburn Farmers Market and other Auburn locations this summer, starting June 28. For more details, contact Elliott O’Sheehan: elliott@washingtoncan.org

This blog post is part of a series highlighting successful initiatives as part of the Community Transformation Grant (CTG). In September 2012, partners Seattle Children’s Hospital, Public Health – Seattle & King County, and the Healthy King County Coalition (HKCC) received a grant to work with local governments, schools, hospitals, low-income housing groups, and community organizations to improve the health of communities in South Seattle and South King County. Find out more here: www.kingcounty.gov/health/ctg.