Hunger Intervention Program (HIP) Feeds the Neighborhood
By Janis Clark
As I sit midway between the feasts of Thanksgiving and Christmas, with cupboards full of food, I think of those with less at their table. Nutritious food is a right, but while there is plenty of food to feed everyone in this country, millions of people go hungry every day.
In my Lake City North Seattle neighborhood, the many dedicated volunteers of the non-profit Hunger Intervention Program (HIP) do their part to correct this imbalance locally by preparing and serving healthy food to hundreds of seniors and youth.
I attended senior lunch preparation and was pleased to witness the HIP spirit of cooperation and giving: efficiency and generosity at their highest levels. Working out of the Presbyterian church kitchen, a delicious hot lunch was prepared and delivered to Lake City Community Center by energetic volunteers, as it is three days every week. Lunch that Monday served 100 people, with leftovers to take home.
Spaghetti with tomato and meat sauce, fresh green salad including broccoli florets, Delicata squash, fruit, rolls right out of the oven and dark chocolate fruit bars for dessert, baked that very day! Although meals are primarily meant for seniors, there is an open-door policy and no one in need is turned away.
Norma, Rita Marie, Bonnie, Pat, Nancy, Marilee and John, are among the volunteers I met, each spanning days, months or years of commitment to HIP, each with a specific job to do the morning I visited. My only job was to stay out of their way as they prepared lunch. I was not able to meet all the workers or ask everyone’s names, because as soon as food was brought up from the storage areas, prep began in earnest and the kitchen was busy as a beehive.
Earl, the “Roll Man,” is famous for his beautiful, golden brown, fresh-baked rolls. Volunteers are rewarded with hot rolls right out of the oven (I was generously included). Retired after a career on cruise ships, Earl now has time to spare, and likes to help. “I wanted to give back to the community,” he told me.
Seniors are often overlooked in our culture and poor nutrition can be particularly detrimental to their health and well-being. Bryn Robertson, HIP Senior Meals Program Coordinator, is responsible for creating each senior lunch menu, incorporating all the elements of optimal nutrition: a proper balance of protein, grains, fruits and vegetables using all the resources available.
The lunch tables in Lake City Community Center dining room were set with table cloths and meals were served in generous portions amid friendly greetings: “Hello” and “How are you?” In this comfortable and welcoming environment, seniors who have difficulty cooking for themselves, or who face barriers getting to the grocery store, can eat well, socialize and meet new friends.
Being served a meal at the table as though dining in a restaurant instead of going through a line with a tray, sends a valuable message. “These people are our guests,” Linda Berger told me. “We know their names and their stories.” Linda and her husband, Jerry, have been involved in non-profit, hunger related projects since 1990, feeding the hungry in Seattle years ago with PB&J sandwiches.
In our Lake City neighborhood, the nutritional needs of both seniors and youth are high priority. I was surprised to learn that one in five kids and teens in Washington State lives in a household that faces hunger. After-school snacks at the library, in partnership with the Lake City Library’s Homework Help program, serve 20 to 30 children, four days a week. Also, Healthy HIP Packs are a weekend food backpack program that provides nutritious, kid-friendly foods, enough for six meals and two snacks per child, to more than 250 students every week.
Children who rely on school breakfast and lunch face three months of food insecurity in the summer, so HIP partners with other community organizations to provide Summer Meals for Kids, offering nutritious lunches at convenient locations around our north Seattle community.
“As long as food is considered a commodity for making profit and not as a biological necessity and a human right, we will never solve the root causes of hunger,” Srijan Chakraborty, Executive Director of the Hunger Intervention Program, explained. He also stressed that the problems of poverty, homelessness and food insecurity in our communities are not unsolvable. “People can help. Anyone can do something.”
“When we wonder what we can do in the world to make things better, it starts here,” Linda Berger said.
HIP’s Senior Community Meal has been offered in partnership with Sound Generations and the Lake City Community Center since 2013. In August 2018, HIP partnered with Sound Generations and others to provide an authentic East African meal to the growing community of East African elders in north Seattle, every Thursday at the Northgate Community Center.
Empowering people through nutrition is what the Hunger Intervention Program is all about. Emily Billow, AmeriCorps HIP Program Coordinator summed it up succinctly when she told me, “Community starts with food.”
For more information about the Hunger Intervention Program and to find out how you can help, visit the HIP website, www.hungerintervention.org.