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Protein Program unlocks new nutritious options for the Market community

Posted June 30, 2023

Pike Place Market is recognized the world over for its famous flying seafood, rich cheeses, select meats, and so many other savory treats. With our new Protein Bucks Program, the Pike Place Market Foundation is harkening back to the original mission of the Market by removing barriers to food security, so that everyone in our community can enjoy the fresh and nutritious meat, eggs, and dairy that the Market offers.

When The Market Commons conducted a community-wide survey in 2021, 38% of Market residents expressed unmet protein needs, citing barriers such as soaring prices, inflation, and the challenges of traveling to distant grocery stores. Responding to these emerging community needs, The Market Commons launched a new Protein Pilot Program.

The primary goal of the program was to provide residents with easier access to purchase high quality protein directly from merchants in their neighborhood, by increasing the purchasing power of their SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) food benefits.  Participants can double their SNAP dollars and purchasing power at participating businesses: Don and Joe’s Meats, Pike Place Fish Market, and Pike Place Creamery. 

Not only has the program increased access for community members to shop the excellent protein options in their own backyard, it also directly supports Market businesses, increasing their revenue and encouraging regular shopping from local residents. Due to overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants and business owners, this pilot became a permanent Food Access program managed through The Market Commons. 

To get a glimpse of the Protein Program in action, we joined Market resident Shane on his rounds as he gathered ingredients to make a tasty tempura. Utilizing both the Bonus Card and Protein Bucks from The Market Commons, Shane was able to procure both delicious produce and protein from market vendors to create a dynamic dish. “I love trying out new recipes,” says Shane. “My dad gave me a cookbook and I’ve been able to make burgers, stir fry, great soups… all with stuff from the Market.” 

First Shane showed us how he utilizes the Bonus Card, another Market Foundation Food Access offering that started in 2013. To get all the vegetables needed for tempura, we stopped by Choice Produce, Shane’s favorite produce highstall in the Market. “Since I’ve been coming here, this is the only place I get produce,” he explains. “I like the people that work here, Dalton and Aldrich and Cody and Nikos… All of their produce and fruits and vegetables are fresh are beautiful. The mushrooms too… I guess you can say they are fun-guys!” 

Cody at Choice Produce hooks him up with broccoli, garlic, ginger, pepper, avocados, and more, all personally selected to fit the tempura dish. “They ring up my produce. Then I show them my [food benefit card] and my Bonus Card. And then that gives me half off.” he said.  The Bonus Card help residents and other Market shoppers like Shane to double their purchasing power and get even more amazing Market produce through food benefits.

Next, we headed over to Pike Place Fish Market to get shrimp and scallops. Shane has developed quite a rapport with the fishmongers, stopping by to utilize Protein Bucks and get his seafood for the week. “Everyone here is so nice to me,” says Shane. “They’ve got a great selection, this stuff is the best.” Fishmongers Erik and Jaison give Shane a warm hello and help select their recommendation of fresh, quality shrimp to best complement the dish. “The Protein Program has been awesome, we’ve been able to build relationships with the residents here who might not otherwise be able to shop here regularly,” said Jaison, co-owner of Pike Place Fish Market.  “The people who are a part of this community become our regulars.  And that’s what the Market is all about.” 

Next up: Don and Joe’s Meats to select pork loin chops. “All the guys that work there are really nice,” says Shane. “Don Jr. helps me pick out what I need, and they’ve got a great selection.” In addition to Don and Joe’s Meats and Pike Place Fish Market, Pike Place Creamery is a new Protein Program partner this year, offering a wide selection of milk, butter, eggs, and so much more. “I’m excited to check that out later, because I love their dairy products,” says Shane. “I love their Darigold 3.25% whole vitamin D milk, kefir, Chobani yogurt, sour cream… So I’m excited to use my Protein Bucks for that.”

A master at utilizing the Market’s top-tier produce and protein, Shane showed us how a clear vision and a whole lot of Market love can result in one epic tempura dish. “When Stella at The Market Commons told me that the Protein Bucks were expanding [to year round], I got it the next day,” said Shane. “It has been so nice. It makes it a lot easier to eat well and get my protein for the month.”  

By listening to emerging needs in our neighborhood and working to remove barriers to high quality food, the Protein Bucks Program helps ensure the health and well-being of our community while also supporting local businesses in the Market. Together, we celebrate the expansion of this program and the positive impact it continues to have in the Market community!

Based on the success in 2021 and 2022, and increased need due to the rising costs of food, this year we are expanding this program to be year round and reach more shoppers. Your gift will help ensure food access and security for Market residents, workers and neighbors through expansion of our Protein Bucks Program! 

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Access to fresh, affordable produce is rooted in the history of Pike Place Market, and is essential to the health of our community. Through the Food Access Program at The Market Commons, we help minimize barriers and alleviate food insecurity for the Market community through shopping programs, education, and the Secret Garden. 

We are grateful to our partners like Delta Air Lines, tms, Homestreet Bank, and PCC Community Markets who help make this work possible!




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