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Investing in Safe and Equitable Food Access in Pike Place Market

Posted April 28, 2021

Food is central to the heart of the Pike Place Market community.

It’s visible in every corner of the Market, from the bounty of restaurant options to the fresh produce and local fish on display. 

Market grocers remained open every day they could throughout the COVID-19 crisis. By continuing to operate in a safe and distanced matter, downtown neighbors and Market residents can still access fresh, healthy food. 

But it’s just as important that the famous foods of the Market are made accessible to everyone who lives in our neighborhood. That’s why in collaboration with partners, the Market Foundation strives for equitable access to Market food and groceries for all community members, regardless of income or housing.

This Food Access program wouldn’t be possible without YOUR support, learn how to join us at our May 20th livestream, Rally Together For the Market! 

The Pike Market Senior Center is known for their delicious, healthy food services, offering three meals a day, 7 days a week. Even though they had to close the communal space where seniors could dine together, they maintained their daily meal services every day in 2020. These meals go to hundreds of senior residents, individuals experiencing homelessness, and other senior community members. 

In 2020 alone, 45,467 meals were served to 1,310 Senior Center members.

Our friends at the Pike Market Food Bank have also been hard at work every day providing groceries for the downtown community. 2020 was a time of change and flexibility for the Food Bank. They started out the year by introducing a brand new grocery-store model for the Food Bank, where shoppers could intentionally choose their food products in a relaxed environment. 

But when the COVID-19 crisis hit, they transitioned quickly to a safely distanced take-away model. They worked hard to maintain distribution in an outside space where shoppers could be distanced from each other, while still giving everyone the ability to choose the groceries they need. Whatever was on the grocery list, a Food Bank staff member or volunteer would communicate with the shopper outside and then source and collect the items they needed for a take-away bag. 

They didn’t stop there to ensure food security for the Market community. In order to maintain access for residents and community members who needed to shelter in place, they increased their home delivery services. Shoppers and residents used to coming down to the Food Bank could now get the same healthy groceries, while safely staying at home. 

“There were no cut hours. The Food Bank didn’t blink – they went right to re-adjusting services and stepping up for the community,” said Mason Lowe, Deputy Director of the Pike Market Senior Center & Food Bank. 

In 2020, 5,140 shoppers were able to make 50,977 shopping trips at the Food Bank for their grocery needs.

Our community resource center, The Market Commons, also adapted their Food Access services quickly in response to the needs of the community. We’ve reported before on their Emergency Food Program that started right when the COVID-19 crisis first hit, in which The Market Commons staff delivered 989 emergency food bags and 15,737 emergency meals between March to September 2020 for residents throughout the Market. 

In addition to the Emergency Food Program, The Market Commons also enhanced their shopping programs that provides affordable access to fresh fruits and vegetables for shoppers on fixed incomes. As many Market businesses closed and Market workers found themselves out of work, The Market Commons increased the purchasing power and reach of their shopping programs to support unemployed workers.

Not only did this allow for more individuals to sign up for the Pike Bucks program, which provides this access to Market produce, but it also increased the amount that farmers and produce stands earned from these shopping trips. This was a win-win as businesses in the Market experienced a significant loss of foot traffic during the stay-at-home order. 

One Market worker, Tim, started to make use of these shopping programs for the first time ever after he was furloughed. “I’ve never been on EBT [food assistance] before, and before I talked to The Commons, I had no idea these services were available for people who work here.” 

The Market Commons has also started a new pilot program of Protein Bucks, which allows for similar access to the delicious variety of meats and fish available at some Market stands.

 “The Protein Bucks makes ordering fish much more approachable,” said Tim. “I used to only afford to get Mackeral or cheaper fish products, and so the Protein Bucks really help broaden my horizons and food options.”

In 2020, the Food Access program was able to reach 3,655 Market shoppers and help them make 8,301 shopping trips. This investment allowed for $124,635 of purchase power in fruits and vegetables that nourished community members and provided essential revenue to Market farmers and businesses.

With all of these impacts put together, the Market Foundation and our community partners provided a total of 61,256 shopping trips and 123,944 meals to the Market community in 2020.

As we start to see a light at the end of the tunnel for the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important that we maintain safe and equitable food access to our Market community.

Please support our efforts today so that every person who works, lives, or enters our Market is empowered to purchase or receive the essential groceries and meals they need to stay healthy.