Spotlight on Food Security – What We Heard That Day

Aug 11, 2021

Gary Davis, Executive Director, Companis: “If we’re not fed and have good nutrition, there’s very little we can do. The people who are inspired to step up and feed their neighbors never ask for the spotlight. But we are sending them love because what they do is so important and holds us together in tough times.” 

Gary Davis spoke at Spotlight on Food Security at Seattle’s Mount Zion Baptist Church on July 31st. The event was an opportunity for some of  Companis’ nonprofit partners to talk about how they tackle food insecurity and how people can help. 

Here is more information shared that day by our nonprofit partners, in their own words.

Reverend Rick Barlow, Mount Zion Baptist Church, Seattle:

“How many of you have heard of God’s Groceries? Not enough hands went up! God’s Groceries [emergency food assistance run through Mount Zion Baptist Church] happens every third Friday of the month, right here at this spot. We provide groceries. Everything is given away from meat to fresh produce to canned goods.” 

God’s Groceries at Mount Zion has been going strong for just over a year. Pastor Barlow says he was inspired by New Walk Christian Church which provides emergency food twice a week at their church in Burien. 

“I volunteered [at New Walk] and then I was led to ask the question, ‘Is there any way that we can duplicate what you’re doing?’ Understand, I learned a long time ago there’s nothing wrong with being a copycat, as long as you copy the right cat! And so we simply copied what they did. God’s Groceries is making a difference because of what New Walk has been doing for over 14 years.”

Pastors Walter and Evelyn Heyman, of New Walk Christian Church, Burien: 

Pastor Evelyn Heyman: “The program we have at New Walk Christian Church is called Feed the Need, A Client’s Choice Pantry. We allow people to come in [to pick up food] and if people don’t have a bag, we’ll make sure that they have a bag. People come with all kinds of needs. COVID has been very, very tough. People needed to move out, so we helped them out. People needed to move in, so we helped them move in using our truck. So it’s not just food they come for. Food is universal, but so is love.” 

Pastor Walter Heyman: “We have partnerships with other organizations that do this. You can do a lot more than just being by yourself. You know, the biggest thing we have received from this service is relationships. And that’s what brings communities together.”

Belynda Dunbar, Development Manager, Emergency Feeding Program, Renton. (Washington’s only African American-owned food distribution nonprofit.)

“We give out two boxes [of food] per family, depending on the family size. We do a dry box. We also give out a box of refrigerated food as well. The response had been overwhelming for us, especially since the onset of COVID. A lot of [emergency food] organizations shut down or they reduced their hours and the overflow came to Emergency Feeding Program. In 2020, we dispersed  2.3 million pounds of food. We’re small in size and we’re giant in the community because we try to reach everybody that we can. We meet them where they are and don’t ask too many questions. You know, people are hungry. When you’re hungry, you don’t feel good. And when you don’t feel good, you’re agitated. So we don’t want to continue to irritate people. Our number one goal is to make sure people are treated fairly and to do it with a smile.” 

Katherine Kehrli, Founder, Community Loaves, Seattle: 

“I am so inspired by the work of the Emergency Food Program and New Walk and Mount Zion. Compassion is what’s being shared here. Nutrition security, even more than food security, is a right that all of us should have. And my version of food and nutrition security is making sure that we have healthy bread in our food banks. It’s made from flour that’s grown in our Skagit Valley. And it’s made by bakers who volunteer and raised their hand and said, ‘I’d like to do something from my home kitchen.’ “

Keith Tucker, Founder, Hip Hop Is Green, Seattle and Federal Way:

“I have been involved in hip hop since the 1970s. And so I know many of the founders including Public Enemy. So I called them and said, ‘Hey, do you know people in hip hop who are vegan?’ And so I assembled a team and they perform for everybody that comes to our vegan meal. We introduce young people to plant-based food, bringing nutrition to our communities. And our latest project that Companis is helping us with is our Cherry Street Farm. It’s going to be the first hydroponic farm in Seattle’s Central District. We’ll be able to grow almost two acres of food and we’re going to show young people how to grow that food. We’re also going to have a teaching kitchen with ongoing programs year around. We hope  to create a model that will last and can be duplicated in cities all around the country.” 

Thanks to our nonprofit partners for stepping up to fight hunger and to Companis Workers Lee Campbell, Debbie Aylott and Gretchen Frankenstein who serve them with professional skills ranging from grant writing, fundraising, financial record keeping, and bread making. Together, we are compassion in action!