For over a decade, a diverse and interconnected group of local partners has been working behind the scenes to ensure all members of the community have access to nourishing food.
Until fairly recently, the Northshore Nourishing Network had fallen below the radar.
“In general, there have been more contributions and donations since the virus began,” said Sue Freeman, convener for the network. “People are more aware of the fact that there are people in the community who are going hungry.”
Since 2009, the network has offered an innovative approach to social change and community leadership by introducing a new way to connect resources and meet the basic needs of all people.
Freeman described it as a “one-stop resource” for anyone interested in food insecurity or food stability issues.
“It's kind of hidden, but it's been there,” Freeman said. “People have been working behind the scenes, volunteering full time, providing community meals and doing great work for all these years.”
Freeman joined the group eight years ago, around the same time she started and coordinated a community meal program in Woodinville. She has been involved around food and kitchens for about 15 years, but first heard about the network through connections in the Northshore School District.
She said the network consists of local food banks, meal programs and partnerships with schools and churches in the area. Many programs are either on hold at the moment or have switched from providing sit-down dinners to drive-through meals.
The network provides a list of current local meal programs and food banks, including information for free breakfasts and lunches for students in the Northshore School District. The Woodinville Storehouse Foodbank is providing its clients with pre-filled bags of groceries at the door. Similarly, the Northshore Senior Center is offering lunches to-go for seniors every day, in addition to a pop-up food pantry.
Freeman said sit-down dinners are no longer feasible due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. As a result, the social aspect of community meals has diminished. Before the pandemic, she said people would go get a hot meal and talk with other people. That's not possible right now, she added.
“The human connection isn’t as close as it was,” Freeman said. “If you’re driving through in your car and being handed a bag of food, there’s still some conversation obviously, but it’s not as personal as (meal programs were) before COVID-19.”
In wake of the coronavirus, Freeman said the network has been adapting to the changing world by exchanging information and resources, sharing ideas, trading and bartering.
“I would like to thank the community because they’ve really stepped up to the plate with coronavirus,” she said. “The response to food drives has been phenomenal.”