SEATTLE – When the youth of Delridge and White Center’s Food Empowerment Education and Sustainability Team (FEEST) set local foods they’ve prepared on a pre-Thanksgiving table at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center on Nov. 25, they will have the power of the prestigious W.K. Kellogg Foundation behind them.
 
Giving children in those communities better access to healthy foods and safer places to play and be active are the focus of a $1.2 million W. K. Kellogg Foundation Grant awarded to a consortium led by WSU King County Extension. It follows a two-year, $625,000 planning grant the Washington partners received two years ago.
 
Kellogg announced awards totaling more than $32.5 million on Monday, Nov. 16, as part of its national “Food and Community Initiative.”
 
The initiative addresses improving food and physical activity around the country.
 
Washington will receive $400,000 each year for the next three years to focus on promoting healthy foods and physical fitness in public schools, bringing locally-grown healthy foods into urban areas where corner convenience stores may be the only food retailers available, and improving school and community settings to promote walking and biking. The work will center on the Delridge neighborhoods, located in southern Seattle, and the adjacent community of White Center, located in King County.
 
“More than 60 area agencies, associations and government entities joined forces to find the funding to make this proposal a reality,” said Linda Kirk Fox, associate dean and associate director of WSU Extension. “The systemic change that the King County Food and Fitness Initiative will shape stands to improve the health and well-being of children throughout Delridge and White Center, as well as their parents and other family members.”
 
Randy Engstrom is the founding director of the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center of the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association and currently is serving as interim project director for KCFFI. He said the active involvement of young people in both communities will be critical to the initiative’s success.
 
“We are really excited to be able to continue that work that we’ve started here with KCFFI,” Engstrom said. “We feel that healthy food and safe spaces are a social justice issue, and we’re glad to be connecting our youth and community members to this growing movement.”
 
Aileen Balahadia, executive director of the White Center Community Development Association, said the project stands to help those who need it most.
 
“Because of the wonderful civic engagement and partnerships in White Center, we are confident that our food and fitness strategies are consistent with what residents prioritized in their White Center Neighborhood Action Plan and will support healthier eating choices and a safe, well-designed neighborhood infrastructure for our extremely diverse and dynamic community,” she said.
 
Diana Estrada-Alamo, a 17-year-old from Delridge, said the KCFFI already has made a major difference in her life and that of her family.
 
“KCFFI has provided me with skills to hone my leadership potential by actively engaging me in every step of the initiative process,” Estrada-Alamo said. “My peers look to me as a role model for catalytic change, and I even convinced my mother to start recycling.”
 
Brad Gaolach, director of WSU King County Extension, said three Strategy Action Teams will lead the neighborhood level work of the initiative.
 
“The Kellogg funds will support community activities that lead to systems change, staff to coordinate policy and systems change efforts at the local, state and regional levels, as well as leadership development for youth and families,” he said.
 
The School Food and Fitness team will:
•         Improve the quality of school food
•         Increase access to fresh, healthy food in schools
•         Link schools to local food production with learning activities such as nutrition and garden-based education
•         Increase the amount and quality of physical activity and education for children during the school day and when traveling to and from school; and
•         Increase partnerships between youth and families in the focus schools with community members, organizations, farmers, chefs and community leaders
 
The Healthy Food Retail team will work to:
•         Increase access to and awareness of affordable and fresh food through retail establishments
•         Build the foundation for placement of a full-service grocery store in Delridge
•         And improve the systemic connections between food producers, distributors and the network of local retailers
 
The Safe Spaces team will:
•         Support the work for the School Food and Fitness SAT as well as
•         Improve safety and investment for walking and biking in school and community settings.