Seattle's biggest food desert needs jobs more than grocery stores

Delridge is the definition of a food desert, but a solution will be more complicated than just adding a few Safeways.
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Delridge is the definition of a food desert, but a solution will be more complicated than just adding a few Safeways.
Farmers' markets, community coops and local grocery stores are nice, but increased job opportunities and the dissolution of the popular 128 bus would most affect access to healthy food in Seattle's Delridge neighborhood. That's according to a new City of Seattle report published this month about food access priorities for women and families in Delridge.
An ethnically diverse neighborhood with familiar geographic challenges — including valleys and ridges that make getting around difficult — Delridge has no traditional grocery store to speak of. 
The report itself, a rare partnership between City Councilmember Mike O'Brien's office, the Office of Sustainability and the Environment and the volunteer-run Seattle Women’s Commission, was formulated in direct response to the complaints of one Delridge mother, who, in 2011, testified before The Seattle Women’s Commission that she was unable to carry out the most basic household task: grocery shopping in her neighborhood. There ought to be a better way to access healthy food, she told the commission, than taking public transportation to a grocery store, kids in tow, in order to spend her monthly WIC allotment — a sum she's required to spend in one lump visit.
The commission brought her complaint to the city, finding support in the Office of Sustainability and the Environment and with Councilmember Mike O’Brien, whose office agreed to fund a project coordinator for the study. Commissioner Michele Frix called the project “a natural fit" for The Women's Commission, which has a vested interest in health disparity issues among women of color, immigrants, refugees and female veterans.
With funding secured, the unlikely trio hired project coordinator Giulia Pasciuto, who studied food access as a graduate student at UCLA.
The coalition was mindful of replicating the work of other community food organizations. They weren't the first to notice that Delridge had a grocery store problem — nor were they the first to try to solve it. Food access organizations like Stockbox Grocers, The King County Food and Fitness Initiative and Healthy Foods Here have ventured into Delridge with pilot programs that have since expired. More recently, FEEST, a high school cooking program, and the Little Red Hen Project, a gardening and cooking education program, have taken root.
“We were concerned that a lot of folks having been researching in [the Delridge] area, and we didn’t want to reinvent that,” explained Frix, who works at the Seattle International Foundation and volunteers with the commission. “We were all super committed to making sure these communities are included in city government”. 
Instead, Pasciuto planned to focus more on elevating the voices of Delridge women themselves, with the hope of creating actionable recommendations from their input. After reaching out to community organizations, the she devised public workshops, equipped with translators, to help start a conversation with local women about what they needed. 

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About the Authors & Contributors

Anna Goren

Anna Goren

Anna Goren is a writer living in Seattle, WA focusing on food and social justice. She writes a regular column for The Seattle Globalist, and has worked on many aspects of food issues as a cook, farm apprentice, food bank employee and community organizer. She blogs about her leftovers at