What a year we just had, and what a year we are going to have! Our staff just sat down and reflected on 2018 and looked ahead to 2019. 2018 had a lot to it. One of our key staff members left the food bank to become a full-time fire fighter. We added a great new staff member and welcomed three, yes three, food bank babies to the family. The project we collectively felt best about was making the decision to give families access to our food bank twice a week. Initially, we did this during the summer in recognition of the challenge so many face when they lose free meals provided by the schools. As summer came to a close we were determined to keep this new practice going and about 15 percent of families are now utilizing the food bank twice a week. It takes more work and more food, but we are proud to be one of the few food banks allowing visits multiple times per week.

As I look ahead to 2019 I'm encouraged by some new goals we have. This year, we will work with several local partners to launch Whatcom Veggie Rx. This program will help food insecure people with Type 2 Diabetes access more fresh fruits and vegetables, and in turn get their diabetes under control. We will also begin to include tampons, pads, and menstrual cups as items we regularly have at our food bank. Community members and food bank customers have asked for these products for some time and we are eager to begin carrying them regularly. Period support supplies are expensive, cannot be purchased with food stamps, and missed school and work absenteeism are just some of the outcomes of not being able to afford them.

Finally, we will continue to advance our anti-racism work that started in earnest in 2018. At the end of 2018 all staff, some volunteers, and some community members benefited from an intense workshop facilitated by the People's Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB) called Undoing RacismĀ®. During the workshop, we learned a tremendous amount about the history and impact of racism. We heard from people of color living here in Whatcom County about the horrible racism they experience on a shockingly regular basis. People of color are more likely to experience hunger and be low-income than white folks. We want to be allies with people of color and know we have a lot to learn and do in this realm; we are determined to become a more equitable organization. In the coming year we hope to increase the diversity of our staff and build authentic relationships to hear more regularly from people of color who use our food bank. In the end, I hope we can develop an equity lens that will inform all aspects of our work. I look forward to sharing our progress this year and invite you to join in on our work.

-Mike Cohen,
Executive Director

Food For Thought: An Equitable Food System Dialogue
Tuesday, February 26 | 4:00-5:30 @ Bellingham Food Bank

Presented by: Bellingham Food Bank, Western Libraries, WWU Center for Community Learning and The Volunteer Center of Whatcom County at the Opportunity Council

Join us for a community dialogue about the roles that our learning community and our larger society play in addressing equitable food systems. Be a part of this conversation through active listening and sharing your unique perspective. Meet Volunteer Center of Whatcom County partner organizations who work with food-related issues and explore how you can participate in creating just and equitable food systems for our community.

Catering by Haggen Market Street Catering

RSVP to | 360.676.0392

2019 brings forth new programming aimed at better serving the families we support. Our board of directors voted to expand our distribution to include menstrual hygiene products, beginning in February! These will be added to toilet paper and baby diapers as our regularly distributed non-food items.

Clients wi ll self-identify with their needs, as we recognize everyone's cycle and preferences are unique. Folks will have choice among tampons, sanitary napkins and menstrual cups as well as among plastic and organic, non-plastic varieties. Our goal is to support about half of a monthly cycle.

Why men strual support products?  
Food stamps do not cover essential items like soap, shampoo, and menstrual support products. As a result, those who cannot afford proper supplies can miss work, miss school, and surrender to unhygienic solutions with less expensive options. Nobody should have to choose between tampons and food, or have to miss work or school because they can't afford supplies when they are menstruating. These products are expensive, and asking for them can be associated with shame. We hope to help destigmatize periods in this way.

If you'd like to support our efforts with a donation of money or products, contact Mike Cohen: | 360.676.0392.

In January, we added Pam Helmstetter as our Operations Assistant!

Pam has volunteered with our Alderwood Elementary distribution for the last year and is now supporting our downtown volunteers and clients while our Operations Manager is on parental leave.

Welcome Pam!

This is 10th year of the Garden Project and a total of 225 gardeners have been part of this program so far! Annually, 60 households receive all that's needed to grow an organic home garden. Each spring, 25 new households join and have a raised bed built in their yard. Many tools and educational resources are provided, including access to a garden mentor and organic, local seeds and plants starts of their choice. All of this is entirely free and the program lasts for 2 years. It's also available in Spanish! The fruits (and veggies) of their labor are grown for the gardeners themselves to enjoy.

We believe that gardening has the ability to transform lives. The benefits can be economic, environmental, physical and emotional. Getting your hands in soil and cultivating plants can relieve stress and enhance mood. Gardens get us outside more and promote healthy eating. Just take it from our participants:

Elese, a garden recipient shared "This was our first experience growing a garden and we learned so much! The entire program is so helpful. There are so many benefits for me and my family. We did it together and it was so much fun. We really enjoyed planting, watching our garden grow and eating it all. My kids love eating veggies from the garden!" Sherry, a garden mentor wrote "I absolutely love the social atmosphere with volunteers and garden recipients. It's a warm and inviting educational program for all. It promotes healthfulness and engagement of the body, mind and soul while building bridges throughout our community."

Join us as we grow food and community from the ground up! Contact us to learn about the many ways to be involved: | 360.393.2838
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