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FareStart ramps up efforts to provide emergency meals to those in need

These days, we are more grateful than ever for the heroes in our midst. And goodness, doesn’t it seem like they’re emerging every direction we turn?

Speaking of superhumans, for nearly 30 years, FareStart has been tirelessly feeding communities in need. Since 1992, they’ve prepared more than 10.5 million meals for shelters, schools, and health care centers. So FareStart joining the frontlines of King County's COVID-19 response only felt like a “natural progression,” said CEO Angela Dunleavy-Stowell. “We’ve been immersed in this kind of meal production for a long time.” During this crisis, many of the folks they feed on a daily basis have become the most vulnerable and impacted members of our community.

As things began to unfold here in Seattle, FareStart quickly engaged with King County to figure out the best plan of action. They’ve been collaborating with local government and community partners to identify where meal needs exist and to determine how they could redeploy services to help support homeless shelters, quarantine and isolation centers, as well as other high-risk groups like low-income seniors, youth, and families. They’ve now delivered fresh food to more than 70 different sites, including Downtown Emergency Services Center, Plymouth Housing, Pike Place Market Housing, Ronald McDonald House and Boeing Field - as well as King County isolation and recovery sites.

By the end of March, FareStart had served 80,000 meals since the crisis started. Dunleavy-Stowell said they’re continuing to scale up the amount every day, meaning that number will grow significantly. Since they anticipate bumping up against their capacity of producing 10,000-15,000 meals daily, they’ve been working closely with government and community partners, while forming potential relationships with other catering and foodservice partners. Thanks to those collaborations, they’ll be able to meet more demand and create up to 50,000 meals if needed. Something especially heartwarming to learn? The staff aims to serve more culturally relevant meals to seniors in neighborhoods like the International District.

In addition to acute emergency efforts, FareStart continues to support students with their housing, meals, counseling, and other services. (In order to keep students safe, they’ve had to suspend training for the time being.) They’re also working to extend aid to former FareStart graduates who have recently lost jobs due to the crisis. FareStart’s national program, Catalyst Kitchens, is supporting 80-plus nonprofit network members and clients with emergency resources, consultation, and protocols in response to COVID-19.

So what can we do to help? Those who’re able to give are encouraged to make donations toward FareStart’s response and recovery efforts. “The biggest thing we need right now,” Dunleavy-Stowell said, “is philanthropic support.” Although they’re hopeful they’ll eventually receive some government funding, she stated, “We know that we can’t wait to support those most in need.”

When it comes to health and safety considerations, Dunleavy-Stowell explained that, thankfully, the food industry has always adhered to rigid standards. That said, she admitted there are “new skills we’re all learning.” They’re now following extensive protocols necessary to maintain social distancing in the kitchen, stagger shifts, consider who’s coming and going, and gather as much PPE for staff as possible, from masks and gloves to protective eyewear. Thankfully, they’ve had a great group of donors on that front. Their biggest priority right now: Ensuring that their frontline workers are highly protected.

“This is at our core, feeding the community,” Dunleavy-Stowell said. And we couldn’t be more grateful that these selfless Washingtonians continue to do so.

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