But, the fact of the matter is that hunger is a reality for several hundred people who live and work here.
“It’s sometimes invisible to others because it can be disguised,” comments Sue Freeman, social services chair for the Northshore Council PTSA. “People with ‘food insecurity’ know how to hide it because they don’t want to stand out or call attention to their problem. Students, especially those who are older, are particularly good at disguising the fact that they’re in need. They don’t want their peers to know.”
To help alleviate hunger among families in the area, the Northshore Council PTSA in partnership with the Northshore YMCA launched the Community Kitchen last April.
The program, which is based on a similar project that operates on South Whidbey Island, currently prepares and distributes about 100 meals each week.
Volunteers, under Freeman’s helm, meet every Wednesday morning in the kitchen at the Y at the Carol Edwards Center to make fresh sandwiches, salads and more, which they assemble and pack in bags for pick-up later in the day by families enrolled in the program.
“We have 16 families participating right now,” says Freeman, “and most were referrals by the Northshore School District who helped us identify those in need.”
To date, 1,575 meals have been prepared and distributed.
Although the meals are not identical each week, they normally include a meat or vegetarian option, fresh fruit, vegetable sticks, salad, yogurt (when available), trail mix and a baked treat.
In addition, the volunteers make 25-30 sack meals for students who attend the YMCA’s “Hang-time” after-school program at Kenmore Junior High (See page 3).
“We have a core group of people who come each week,” explains Freeman, “and then others pitch in on an occasional basis. They are either PTA/PTSA members or registered YMCA volunteers. We also sometimes get students in junior high and high school who help out, too.”
Leslie Taub, a Woodinville resident and substitute teacher, has been volunteering in the kitchen since its inception.
She heard about the program via a newsletter from Leota Junior High, where one of her children attended at the time.
“I’m happy to do it,” she says. “I like cooking and it’s great knowing these families are getting at least one good meal a week.”
Vicki Sorg, another volunteer who’s also been with the program since the beginning, likes to be involved in the community.
She comments, “Hunger is a big issue and knowing that I’m helping people locally is important to me.” She adds, “It’s fun working with everyone here and I look forward to coming each week.”
LeeAnn Sievers started volunteering in October, viewing the opportunity as a means to do something good for someone else. She says, “I wanted to help out in the community and I liked the idea of the kitchen.”
The newest volunteer is Michael Charlton, a past president of the Woodinville Farmers Market Board of Directors.
“I’m retired,” says the local man, “and it’s important to me to give back to the community. This is my way of doing it. And it’s lots of fun.”
Numerous organizations and businesses, as well as individuals, lend their support to this valuable community program.
Sustaining supporters include the Northshore School District, Hopelink (Northshore/Kirkland) Village Wines, Northwest Harvest, Fairwinds-Brittany Park and Trader Joe’s (Everett).
The kitchen has also benefitted from various food drives organized by Maywood Hills PTSA, Arrowhead PTA, Windermere Realty (Woodinville and Totem Lake) and Molbak’s.
Other assistance has come from the Greater Bothell Chamber of Commerce, East Ridge PTA, Inglemoor PTSA, Woodmoor PTSA and individual donations.
“We couldn’t do this without all the help,” says Freeman. “The community support is essential and the more diversified that support is, the more sustainable the program will be.”
Julie Jacobson, senior director at the Y adds, “The Northshore Community Kitchen has had such a positive impact in helping families in our community who could benefit from extra food resources. The partnership with the PTSA and various organizations, businesses and individuals is inspiring as is the generosity of our community in helping each other. There are many challenges that children and teens face; being hungry in a country of vast resources should not be one of them.”
In addition to the kitchen, the Y is involved in Totes-to-Go, a program established two years ago between local churches and the Northshore School District to provide backpacks of food for homeless families.
The Y has helped expand the program to reach more families in need.
Jacobson comments, “It’s imperative that we help children who come to school hungry and have limited food resources on the weekend to meet their basic needs. The goal to provide resources for families to be healthier and ensure that children are ready to learn and flourish is one of the highest priorities that we have in the Y.”
She notes that through these programs, along with the Free Summer Lunch program, the Y is providing support and resources to families in the community, adding, “Alleviating hunger in our community should be everyone’s priority and is certainly the Y’s social responsibility.”