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Washington State University Extension

How we arrived at the new Olympic Peninsula Farm to Food Bank Fund

This is the story of how Clallam County community organizations built the robust networks that solidly linked Farms and Food Banks, so much so that in the crisis of Covid, that impact blossomed into an even greater success story that is still unfolding today.

The Peninsula Food Coalition starts the story in 2015 with Jessica Hernandez, then Port Angeles Food Bank Director and Mark Ozias, then Sequim Food Bank Director witnessing the positive impact that the gleaning of local fruits and vegetables had on the food banks. This sparked a vision for expansion of access to fresh, local options. They put together a survey given to food bank visitors, resulting in further clarity that food bank visitors wanted fresh local food. “Gleaning was our first success, that was where we realized the potential for working together with farms.” stated Jessica Hernandez in 2016.

A variety of community meetings took place to troubleshoot how to manage transportation, funds and distribution of farm produce. Communications were strengthened with local tribes ensuring that fresh food was getting to the farthest reaches of the peninsula. This was an effort of leveraging resources with a common vision to serve the Peninsula’s eight food banks; Neah Bay, Quileute, Forks, Lower Elwha, Port Angeles, Jamestown S’Klallam and Sequim.

Washington State University immediately plugged in, contributing the expertise in the Community Health Program, the Regional Small Farms Program, and Gleaning program. WSU Extension brought the vision that bringing small farms into the fold was really an economic development opportunity, particularly for new farms. This move would be mutually beneficial, this was no longer just about donations but rather it was going to financially support farms with upfront contracts.

Over the past 10 years, Sequim and Port Angeles Food Banks have truly pivoted towards a fresh, local approach. Andra Smith, current Sequim Food Bank Director and Emily Dexter, current PA Food Bank Director continue to invest in new pathways for local, fresh nutritious foods as a foundational part of their Food Banks. Their budgets for Farm to Food Bank contracts have increased by upwards of 300% since the program started. Also they have set up designated displays to promote the fresh, local produce and the clientele has loved that. 

In a parallel effort, WSU has also overseen the Farm to Food Pantry program developed by the state-wide nonprofit Harvest for Hunger. This program channels funding from WSDA and while it began with small contracts of a few hundred dollars at a time, in 2023 that number is nearing $50,000 as the pandemic changed the way things worked.

As a community during the pandemic, there was a huge effort to help farmers sustain income while farmers markets and restaurants closed. The Olympic Peninsula Farmers Fund, (OPFF), was created in 2020 and then was repeated in 2021. The fund was able to channel $120,000 in local donations and federal funds to farmers in the form of Farm to Food Bank contracts. This was a life raft for many local farms. It was an outstanding success for all the players involved. The Land Trust and the North Olympic Development Council played an important role in the OPFF and have since gone back to their stated missions. This left the elevated program needing a new foundation.

Additional efforts were taking place with a Fish to Food Bank Fund effort in 2020. Karlena Brailey and Sarah Fisken from Sea Grant were helping the food banks purchase WA caught fish from Neah Bay. A collaboration between WSU Extension Clallam and Jefferson Counties, Washington Sea Grant, Cape Flattery Fishermen’s Coop and regional food bank associations. Washington-caught flash frozen true cod and Chinook salmon filets were purchased from the Cape Flattery Fishermen’s coop and delivered to food bank locations in Clallam and Jefferson Counties.

    • May 2020, 2000 lbs true cod
    • June 2020, 1200 lbs true cod
    • November 2020, 2000 lbs Chinook salmon (with extra funds from WSDA Emergency Purchasing Funds)
    • Total: 5200 lbs of Washington-caught high quality fish protein to area food banks

These efforts educated our local food system, which takes us to the present day. The OPFF was no longer in place in 2022 and the CARES funds no longer in existence. The Farm to Food Bank channels had been well worked and the capacity was increased and proven. The model can work at a much larger scale, that has been tested and successful. So what will keep the engine going? 

WSU Extension Clallam is launching a new fund, the Olympic Peninsula Farm to Food Bank Fund, it is a new tax-deductible avenue for gifting towards this unique win-win arrangement. Throughout the years, there have been concerned citizens supporting Farm to Food Bank efforts with private donations, there have been business donations and other periodic boosts. What we have created now is a vision for an annual Farm to Food Bank Fund drive for our peninsula that takes place each April. The fund will be open for donations all year, and in April you will see the our campaign.

The Olympic Peninsula Farm to Food Bank Fund will serve Clallam and Jefferson County farmers, the 12 food banks in our combined counties; Neah Bay, Quileute, Forks, Lower Elwha, Port Angeles, Jamestown S’Klallam and Sequim in Clallam plus Port Townsend, Tri-Area Food Bank in Port Hadlock, Brinnon and Quilcene. 

We hope you will make a contribution today to increase farmer security and food equity.


Media Contacts

Lisa Bridge, Communications,