Building a Thriving Community Through Food Security and Environmental Sustainability
Let's delve into the inspiring initiatives of Sustainable Renton. Join us as we explore how this remarkable organization is creating a lasting impact by promoting food security and environmental sustainability in our community. Discover how Sustainable Renton's innovative projects and passionate efforts are paving the way for a brighter, more sustainable future for all.
In 2010, Sustainable Renton was born out of a shared passion for sustainable practices and a deep concern for the lack of community support in Renton. The founding members embarked on this journey driven by their like-minded tendencies and a desire to make a difference.
At that time, the community faced numerous challenges, including food deserts where access to affordable, high-quality vegetables and produce was limited. Even then, the market proved to be a harsh reality for hardworking individuals who struggled to make ends meet despite holding multiple jobs. Recognizing the urgent need for change, Steve and Hannah believed that education could be a catalyst for progress.
Their first step was to organize seminars and meaningful movie screenings, designed to empower and educate the community. These initiatives aimed to shed light on sustainable practices and inspire people to take action. The success of these events encouraged them to consider reviving the educational aspect, such as bringing back the popular meaningful movies program.
Steve Randolph (the current President of the organization) and his wife were among the founding members of Sustainable Renton. Their personal commitment and dedication to the cause drove them to establish a community garden behind Celebration Church in the Highlands. This garden served as a platform to bring the community together, fostering a sense of shared responsibility for sustainable living. Additionally, they played a pivotal role in assisting the North Community Highlands Center in setting up raised beds, expanding the availability of gardening resources.
As the momentum grew, Sustainable Renton expanded its reach and collaborated with other organizations to promote food justice. Together with the Don Edmonds community, they established a garden and provided valuable support in setting up the necessary infrastructure. Their expertise attracted knowledgeable individuals who shared their passion for sustainability.
By 2019, Sustainable Renton had reached a significant milestone with the introduction of the Free Grocery Store. This innovative concept aimed to tackle food insecurity by providing free groceries to those in need. The establishment of this store marked a significant turning point in the organization's history.
The roots of the Free Grocery Store stretch back to 2019 when the concept took off. Little did they know that the following year would bring a global pandemic that would reshape the lives of millions. As COVID-19 took hold, grocers, food providers, and restaurants found themselves with surplus food that would have otherwise gone to waste. Sensing an opportunity to bridge the gap between excess food and those in need, Sustainable Renton sprang into action.
Scott, their lead Gleaner, tirelessly roamed the city, salvaging thousands of pounds of food. And with that, the first parking lot free grocery store was born. The urgency to get this food into the hands of people who had lost their jobs, faced layoffs, or found themselves without access to nourishment became their mission. Hannah passionately describes this as "food sovereignty," the notion that everyone deserves culturally relevant, affordable food that is both nutritious and satisfying. No longer should individuals be restricted to mere cans of beans and boxes of rice from food banks. Sustainable Renton sought to provide a diverse selection of food that would otherwise have been discarded.
The magnitude of food waste is a staggering reality that Sustainable Renton confronts head-on. Recent reports from NPR shed light on Food Waste Prevention Week, revealing that one-third of Washington's landfill content is food. Can you imagine? Approximately 400,000 pounds of edible food are discarded every year in the state alone. This revelation underscores the pressing need for organizations like Sustainable Renton, which tackle this issue while simultaneously fostering a sustainable ecosystem.
What sets Sustainable Renton apart is their commitment to inclusivity and sustainability. As a secular organization, they ensure a low barrier of entry, eliminating the need for intrusive questions that might discourage individuals seeking assistance. Their Free Grocery Store operates on a simple premise: to provide sustenance to those who need it, no questions asked. By rescuing food that would otherwise go to waste, they create a virtuous cycle that prevents unnecessary waste and ensures a more sustainable future.
Every Monday, from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, the doors of the Free Grocery Store swing open at Saint Matthews Lutheran Church, welcoming individuals from all walks of life. This regular event is a testament to Sustainable Renton's unwavering commitment to addressing food insecurity and empowering the community.
When asked about the current state of their food supply, Hannah Flory responded, "We'll always take more food. This is a dry period for us. We don't have produce coming in from the farms. We've got some spring vegetables coming in now, but we will basically hand it out until the last car comes through." It was evident that every contribution of food was valuable and no amount was too small. The organization gladly accepts any surplus provisions and ensures they reach those in need.
Sustainable Renton goes above and beyond by redistributing any excess food to various local institutions. "Anything extra that's left over on Mondays, we move to the tiny home villages," explained Hannah. She and Scott personally deliver these donations to five different tiny home villages. Additionally, they collaborate with the Senior Activity Center for their lunch program and support other feeding programs. The scale of their food redistribution efforts is truly remarkable.
Steve Randolph emphasized the magnitude of their impact, saying, "A huge amount of food. We have never had a car come through that we haven't given food to of some level. It may not be everything they wanted, but we've always had something to give them." This unwavering commitment to providing sustenance to those in need sets Sustainable Renton apart. The organization ensures that any surplus food finds its way to the places where it is most urgently required, leaving no one hungry.
During the interview, the concept of gleaning emerged as a central theme. Tanya Barrans inquired about its meaning, to which Hannah Flory responded, "Gleaning basically just means, we're going to get the food wherever it's at." Gleaning encompasses the act of collecting food from various sources, whether it's grocery stores, food banks with surplus supplies, or the newly established food donation bins in local businesses. Sustainable Renton's objective is clear: to gather as much food as possible and ensure it reaches the hands of those who need it most.
Community gardens have become a vital aspect of Sustainable Renton's mission to promote sustainability and address food insecurity. In a recent interview with the organization's leaders, Steve Randolph, President, and Hannah Flory, Vice-President, we gained valuable insights into their community garden network and the positive impact it has had on the local community.
One significant collaboration that Steve highlighted was with Celebration Church. The church generously provided Sustainable Renton with a section of their back lot, which, due to being designated as wetlands, could not be developed. This previously vacant lot was transformed into a thriving community garden. Steve described how they tilled the ground, which was once an old horse manure dumping site, revealing nutrient-rich soil ideal for cultivating a variety of crops.
With careful planning and hard work, Sustainable Renton has successfully established 42 plots, each measuring 10 by 20 feet. Furthermore, they have exciting plans to expand their garden network by adding a new 40 by 160-foot plot, incorporating a food forest into the landscape. The addition of a food forest will not only enhance the garden's beauty but also provide a sustainable source of fresh produce for the community.
The community garden initiative aims to address the needs of individuals living in apartments or other housing situations that do not allow for personal gardening space. These individuals have the opportunity to purchase a plot and experience the joy of growing their own food. Additionally, the garden serves a larger purpose by growing food for Sustainable Renton's free grocery store, ensuring that those facing food insecurity have access to fresh and healthy produce.
Steve also shared a heartwarming aspect of their previous endeavors, which involved growing food for local senior centers. In the past, they implemented a pay-what-you-can program, enabling seniors to take home fresh produce regardless of their financial situation. This initiative exemplifies Sustainable Renton's commitment to fostering community support and inclusivity.
The impending addition of a food forest not only symbolizes Sustainable Renton's dedication to sustainability but also presents an opportunity for the public to enjoy the abundance of nature. Visitors will have the privilege of picking their own fruits directly from the food forest, providing a delightful experience for all.
Hannah emphasized the fruitful partnership with Celebration Church, expressing her gratitude for their generosity and support. This collaboration has been instrumental in the success of Sustainable Renton's community garden network, allowing them to create a beautiful and productive space for the benefit of the community.
I also had the opportunity to discuss the challenges they face in achieving their goals as a company. One of the biggest hurdles they mentioned was funding. Over the past two years, the impact of COVID-19 has presented significant obstacles, requiring the organization to play catch-up with the rapid changes brought by the pandemic. Despite the challenges, Sustainable Renton has witnessed a growing community eager to take advantage of their services, which they wholeheartedly embrace.
Hannah expressed the importance of securing consistent funding to sustain and further develop their initiatives. While the organization has made considerable progress in stabilizing its operations, having a reliable stream of funding is crucial to their long-term success. In addition to funding, Sustainable Renton has been actively searching for a dedicated building space, an endeavor that has been ongoing for quite some time. They envision a stable building that will serve as their headquarters, allowing them to expand their services and reach more people within the community.
Fortunately, St. Matthew's Lutheran Church has been an invaluable partner to Sustainable Renton, offering their parking lot for the organization's activities for the past three years. Steve revealed that they will now be utilizing the church's back parking lot as well, emphasizing the generous support they have received. However, having their own building is a paramount goal for Sustainable Renton. They believe that with a dedicated space, their organization could grow exponentially, multiplying its impact and fostering an even stronger sense of community.
We also delved into the various ways individuals can contribute to the organization's noble mission. Sustainable Renton is a community-driven initiative dedicated to providing essential resources and support to families in need. If you're wondering how you can make a difference, here's your guide to volunteering and supporting this impactful cause:
Sustainable Renton primarily relies on shelf-stable items to assist families in their journey towards self-sufficiency. Products such as oil, flour, cleaning supplies like laundry soap, and a wide range of hygiene products are always in high demand. By contributing these essential items, you play a crucial role in helping families meet their basic needs.
Sustainable Renton partners with Babies of Homelessness, ensuring a steady supply of diapers for families. Additionally, through their collaboration with the Seattle Humane Society, they receive regular donations of dog food and cat food. This support eases the burden of not only feeding families but also caring for their beloved pets.
Staying connected with Sustainable Renton is as easy as following them on social media platforms. By doing so, you can receive updates on their activities, events, and initiatives. Additionally, joining their mailing list keeps you informed about their ongoing efforts to create a sustainable and supportive community.
Sustainable Renton offers a convenient way to support their work through monthly donations. Whether it's a small contribution of five or ten dollars, these regular donations ensure a consistent flow of resources, enabling the organization to make a lasting impact on the lives of families in need. Visit their website to make a one-time donation or set up a monthly giving plan.
Sustainable Renton is actively seeking leaders and subject matter experts to join their board. If you have a passion for making a difference and possess valuable skills, consider becoming a part of their team. Your expertise will play a vital role in shaping the organization's future and driving positive change within the community.
Sustainable Renton organizes exciting events throughout the year to raise funds and awareness. One such event is "The Hunger Heroes 5K," a superhero-themed fun run, walk, and roll. Scheduled to take place at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church on July 8th, this event promises a memorable experience for a great cause. Stay tuned to their Facebook page and keep an eye out for posters announcing their upcoming fundraisers.
Sustainable Renton owes much of its success to the dedicated volunteers who show up every Monday, rain or shine. These passionate individuals contribute their time and effort to help the community thrive. The organization has recently transitioned to semi-permanent containers, providing a reliable space for the 30 to 70 volunteers who come together to make a difference. The unwavering support from the community fuels Sustainable Renton's impact.
In closing, my interview with Steve Randolph and Hannah Flory from Sustainable Renton has left me deeply inspired by their impactful work and unwavering dedication to creating a sustainable and just community. Their commitment to addressing food insecurity, promoting environmental sustainability, and fostering a sense of belonging is truly commendable.
It is crucial that we rally behind organizations like Sustainable Renton, which are working tirelessly to create positive change at the grassroots level. Whether through volunteering, donating, or spreading awareness about their initiatives, we can all play a part in supporting Sustainable Renton's mission.
Let us stand together and support Sustainable Renton as they continue to make a profound impact on our community. By doing so, we can contribute to a more sustainable, just, and compassionate world for all.