‘Farmers to Families’ program helps families, builds relationships between CCS, parishes

People wait in a drive-through line at Holy Family Parish in Seattle’s White Center neighborhood May 30 to receive food boxes from the federal “Farmers to Families” program. With the help of volunteers, Catholic Community Services of Western Washington distributed more than 2,200 boxes of food that day. Photo: Matthew Price/CCS People wait in a drive-through line at Holy Family Parish in Seattle’s White Center neighborhood May 30 to receive food boxes from the federal “Farmers to Families” program. With the help of volunteers, Catholic Community Services of Western Washington distributed more than 2,200 boxes of food that day. Photo: Matthew Price/CCS

Catholic Community Services of Western Washington is partnering with local parishes and others to distribute more than 200,000 pounds of food weekly through June to families in need around the archdiocese.

The project will help an estimated 10,000 families over the four weeks of the program, said Matthew Price, associate director of mission appeals for CCS.

The effort has been “a huge collaboration between CCS and predominantly parishes,” he said.


This box of produce included lettuce, broccoli, celery and strawberries. Photo: Matthew Price/CCS

At the initial distribution sites May 29–30, “people had to be turned away unfortunately. The need is great,” Price said, adding he imagines it will grow as many people continue to be unemployed because of COVID-19.

The food is being supplied by Pacific Coast Fruit Co., which has a warehouse in Kent, under its federal contract for the Farmers to Families Food Box program aimed at helping agricultural suppliers and families during the pandemic. CCS is just one partner helping the company distribute food in Western Washington under its contract.

CCS has committed to handing out at least 7,000 boxes each week at a total of 17 sites in Western Washington, mostly parishes, Price said. The intent is for each family to receive three 25-pound boxes: one with produce, another with dairy products and the third with protein and “a little bit of everything,” he said.

“The nice thing about these particular products is people can do what they want with them, because it’s fresh,” Price said. “They can make whatever meals they want.”

Helping families, building relationships with parishes

On May 29, hundreds of boxes were distributed at the CCS Farmworker Center in Mount Vernon, as well as Villa Santa Maria and La Casa de San Jose, farmworker housing properties operated by Catholic Housing Services, and the Tri-Parish Food Bank at St. Charles Parish in Burlington.

“Due to COVID-19, the community was hit hard by a lack of field jobs this spring, which is causing financial problems for many,” Mary Wahl, a CCS regional network builder, said in a news release. “In addition, many workers have now tested positive for COVID-19, which is extending their inability to work.”


Families typically receive three 25-pound boxes containing produce, dairy and protein items. Photo: Courtesy CCS

Receiving the food was “a blessing,” said Guillermina Bazante, a program coordinator for the Farmworker Center. “The families receiving this food are extremely grateful and appreciate the ability to prepare culturally appropriate food.”

On May 30, another 2,250 food boxes were distributed at Holy Family Parish in the White Center area of Seattle. Holy Family partnered with Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in West Seattle as well as schools, Society of St. Vincent de Paul conferences and other local faith communities to hand out the boxes, Price said.

Holy Family is in the middle of a community that has been greatly affected by unemployment caused by the pandemic, said Father Jose Alvarez, Holy Family’s pastor, in a CCS news release.

“Many people lost their jobs or have had their hours of work reduced and are having difficulty paying their bills,” Father Alvarez said. “Food is the last thing they should worry about and the distribution of food will help tremendously to improve their quality of life.”

At Faith Lutheran Church in Everett, the line of people waiting to pick up food boxes stretched for more than a half-mile, with over 120 vehicles, Price said. At the Farmworker Center, when the delivery truck arrived three hours early, organizers notified the community and all the food was given out before the originally scheduled time, CCS reported.

During June, various parishes around the archdiocese are serving as distribution sites (dates vary). Participating parishes include Holy Family in Kirkland, Our Lady of Sorrows in Snoqualmie, Sacred Heart in Tacoma, St. Ann in Tacoma, St. Charles in Burlington, St. Edward in Seattle, St. Frances Cabrini in Lakewood and St. Mary in Aberdeen.

“It’s been really nice to work with parishes that we haven’t worked with before,” Price said, “to build those relationships and do some good in those communities.”

Jean Parietti

Jean Parietti is the local news editor for NWCatholic.org and features editor for Northwest Catholic magazine. You can reach her at jean.parietti@seattlearch.org.
__________

Jean Parietti es editora local para el sitio web NWCatholic.org y destacada editora de la revista Noroeste Católico/Northwest Catholic. Pueden contactarle en: jean.parietti@seattlearch.org.