in partnership
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(Image: Courtesy Plant-Based Food Share)

Food is hope at Seattle's Plant-Based Food Share

When the pandemic lockdown started in March 2020, Ariel Bangs knew the food-insecure community members would face increased challenges.

So with a primary focus of providing community and bringing people hope, Bangs created Plant-Based Food Share (PBFS), a health equity and food systems organization. The biggest PBFS program is the Food Is Love CSA, a weekly food box filled with healthy, plant-based foods, free to anyone in need.

Bangs, a private chef, food grower, healing-through-food advocate and educator with over 20 years of experience, has focused her career on encouraging healthy eating through a plant-based lifestyle.

"We understand that we are better by eating more vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and herbs," Bangs explains. "We know that obesity and poverty are a direct cause of the food we eat."

Bangs knows the importance of combating food insecurities through the healing power of food, "Many BIPOC, immigrant/refugees, and low-income [community members] live in urban food deserts, and due to the pandemic, are now facing increased economic hardship and lack of access to healthy food.”

Prioritizing culturally-relevant services, PBFS brings wellness, healthy eating, and peace of mind for community members who no longer have to worry about where their next meal might come from.

When Bangs’ started PBFS, her extensive network quickly jumped in to make it possible, "Many of the volunteers who make PBFS possible come from the very communities PBFS supports."

Since March 2020, PBFS has put together over 134,000 boxes filled with fresh food, prepared food, fresh bread, whole grains, and more. These boxes have fed over 200,000 people in our community, completely free of charge. And, significantly, the items in the box have come from 80 chefs and 60 BIPOC farmers.

Bangs reflects that, when starting PBFS, her goal "was and is to support local businesses and farmers, as all of them need to feed their families while feeding and providing for the community."

PBFS is designed to provide free meals while creating opportunities for local businesses.

And it's making a tangible difference in the community. One PBFS food box recipient notes, "Your kindness and charity has partially allowed me to free funds to do long overdue dental work. I am improving my eating thanks to these gifts and just knowing there’s love behind it makes me smile when I unpack it. [...] I’m on disability and have chronic pain, arthritis and a bunch of medical issues which prevent me from being able to help, but I just want to say thank you for thinking of people out there who need a hand."

PBFS started as a food box program, but Bangs has plans to hire staff, build a warehouse and commercial space for cooking, education, and entrepreneur training, and work more closely with their farm partners to grow food specifically for PBFS. There are also plans to expand in other cities. As more and more families face food insecurities, expanding PBFS will help meet those needs.

Through the tremendous support of the community — farmers, food businesses, volunteers and supporters — PBFS has, and will, continue to fulfill its goal to give people who experience food insecurity hope; both now, and beyond the pandemic.

As a nonprofit, PBFS relies on the generous support of the community. Here are ways that you can get involved: