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Emergency Food Network Charity Profile
Mission and Background
The mission of the Emergency Food Network (EFN) is “to provide a reliable food supply so that no person in Pierce County goes hungry.”
EFN began as a program in 1982 when the leadership of FISH Food Banks, Tacoma Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, and Associated Ministries recognized a great need in the community to resource emergency food collectively. With guidance from Paul Bender, the Executive Director of the newly formed Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, and through the organizing efforts of Dennis Flannigan, EFN’s first Executive Director, the organization was created to serve as Pierce County’s central storage and distribution center for emergency food programs. In 1985 EFN was transferred as a program to Associated Ministries. Originally designed to meet a temporary need caused by the economic recession of the 1980’s, it became apparent in the early 1990’s that the need for such a community service had grown. In response, EFN became an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 1991.
The Pierce County emergency food system includes more than 65 food banks and hot meal sites providing nearly 9 million meals annually to over 840,000 clients (duplicated count). In recent years, food programs have experienced an increase in the number of clients seeking services.
As the sole nonprofit food distributor located in Pierce County, EFN provides 69 percent of the emergency food available in the county. The majority of food was donated by large corporations such as Fred Meyer, Carolina Logistics, QFC and SuperValu, but EFN also acts as a Sub-Distributing Agency (SDA) for the USDA Commodity Food Program and purchases over $338,000 in food from its general operating budget and designated accounts.
Services and Programs
The Emergency Food Network (EFN) operates four distinct programs: 1) the Distribution Center, 2) the Mother Earth Farm 3) the Orchard and 4) the the Cannery Project. The 20,000 square foot Distribution Center is located in Lakewood and is the agency’s storage, distribution, and administrative center. We host our Repack Project in this Distribution Center. The Mother Earth Farm is an 8-acre organic farm located in Orting that yields more than 150,000 pounds of fresh produce annually. Started in 2006, the 13-achre Orchard in Roy has 308 apple and plum trees that will provide a sustainable supply of fresh fruit for food banks. The Cannery Project is coordinated by Northwest Harvest and is a partnership with the Independent Food Distribution Network, the LDS Church and the Bishop’s Storehouse in Kent. More than one million cans have been produced since the inception of this program in 1996.
The Emergency Food Network serves more than 65 feeding programs in Pierce County who in turn serve a diverse population of low-income clients. Of the more than 140,000 individuals seeking emergency food assistance each month in the county, 98% fall below national poverty guidelines. More than half are children and seniors and almost half are families with at least one adult working. Hunger is rarely an isolated issue and usually is a symptom of a larger problem impacting an individual’s ability to gain and maintain an adequate level of economic security. Since 1996, EFN has made a commitment to developing programs that not only provide wholesome food to those in need, but also offer opportunities to develop basic work skills in a supportive environment.
Designed and developed as an independent, local response to hunger, EFN and its programs maintain strong working relationships with the local community, statewide organizations and state affiliates of national food bank organizations with an emphasis on food resourcing, trucking, and other issues that impact food banking in our state and region. Additionally, EFN has been active in local and statewide anti-hunger, nutrition, and human service coalitions. EFN was active in the formation of, and remains a participating member in, numerous coalitions including the Washington State Food Coalition, the Washington State Anti-Hunger and Child Nutrition Coalition of Children’s Alliance, and the Pierce County Human Service Coalition.
With its combination of working farm, Repack Project, orchard, distribution warehouse, and cannery access, the Emergency Food Network is unique. It is the only non-profit emergency food distribution center in the country capable of growing, canning, purchasing, storing and distributing food—taking food straight from the ground to the tables of those in need.
Emergency Food Network Volunteer Information
Formed in May of 2000, the Mother Earth Farm is an eight-acre organic farm located in the lush Puyallup Valley. The Farm produces over 150,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables each growing season—all of which is distributed directly to local food banks and hot meal programs. Produce from the Farm is in the hands of food bank clients within eight hours of being harvested. In 2008, the Farm again reached full cultivation of all eight acres producing more than 149,000 pounds of fresh produce, herbs and honey.
This project was developed to provide a stable, internal source of fresh food for EFN and the food programs it serves. It is a working farm that relies primarily on volunteers from a cross-section of the community to operate. These volunteers prepare the land for cultivation, plant seeds, weed the fields and harvest the food throughout the growing season. Once the food is harvested it is immediately available for Pierce County feeding programs, often arriving within hours of harvesting. As a result, the clients receiving this food are being provided with a source of fresh, organic produce that is nutrient-rich and locally grown.
The Mother Earth Farm incorporates an educational component for area youth and adults. It illustrates more than any other of Emergency Food Network’s programs the diverse community engaged in the fight against local hunger. Agencies and schools, such as First Place for Children and the Puyallup School District use the farm as an opportunity to plant and study various fruits and vegetables. Six local school districts and three universities incorporate their Farm experiences into their curricula. Valuable partnerships are also in place with L’ Arche Farm & Gardens and the Washington Correctional Center for Women at Purdy providing job training for developmentally disabled adults and women inmates, respectively. The Farm also welcomes scores of corporate, civic and church work teams throughout the growing season.
The more people we welcome to the Farm, the more people we engage in the conversation of local hunger. This, in turn, brings us closer to solving the problem by creating new volunteers, new donors and new advocates.