School will be out for summer soon, which means most households will be scurrying to find new activities to fill up all the kids’ newly established free time. Some families in Washington have an even bigger worry — how to feed their children. Nearly one-quarter of Washington children are food insecure, which means they don’t know how their next meal will be provided. Government-funded breakfasts and lunches are fed to these children at school, but when the school year ends so do those regular meals.

Donate peanut butter to help NW Harvest provide lunches for kids
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End Child Hunger (Photo courtesy Northwest Harvest)

So, to help local food banks alleviate the higher demand for kid-friendly foods this summer, the Seattle Mariners are partnering with Ford’s Focus on Child Hunger to collect peanut butter at this Friday’s June 5 game against Tampa Bay at Safeco Field. Why peanut butter? Thanks to its high protein content, peanut butter is an important protein staple to feed kids, but it’s hard to acquire in adequate quantities.

Even if you’re not headed to the game, you can still donate your peanut butter between June 5th and 13th at any local Ford dealership.  They’ll be accepting them to help with the summertime demand for kid-friendly foods at Northwest Harvest. Last year’s drive collected more than 30,000 pounds of peanut butter to feed kids throughout the state over the summer.

Donate peanut butter to help NW Harvest provide lunches for kids
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Started in 2013, the Ford Focus on Child Hunger has provided more than one million meals and snacks to children throughout the Pacific Northwest. They do this as part of a five-state campaign to support the community food banks so that no child goes hungry this summer. Northwest Harvest is Washington’s statewide hunger relief agency, with a vision of providing ample nutritious food to everyone in the state.

Food drive workers at Northwest Harvest -  End Child Hunger (photo courtesy Northwest Harvest)
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Food drive workers at Northwest Harvest – End Child Hunger (Photo courtesy Northwest Harvest)

End Child Hunger – A Conversation with NW Harvest

We got to speak with Jesse Swingle, communications manager at NW Harvest, and find out more about what they do about nut allergies, other food needs this summer, and the way kids can help other kids in their communities:

Baby to Boomer: Peanut butter is full of protein and healthy nutrients for children and is shelf-stable for a good amount of time, so it’s obviously a great food drive choice — but what about food-insecure kids with nut allergies? Do you accept other nut butters, etc. in the drive?

NW Harvest: We certainly see food allergies, and make a point of keeping non-peanut and non-nut butters around whenever possible. They’re often too expensive for us to purchase, so we rely on donations from food drives to keep a ready supply. We absolutely accept other butters!

Baby to Boomer: What type of response have you seen in Seattle from past kid-friendly food drives?

NW Harvest: Kids love to hold food drives for other kids, and we regularly see families volunteer at food drives together as an opportunity both to bond and teach their children the importance of giving back. Kids get it – they know there is a need in the community, and even among their friends. They want to help, and food drives are a fun way to do that. The community really comes together around kid-focused food drives: I think we have a natural reaction that makes it hard to imagine any child struggling with hunger. It’s not ok that adults or seniors are struggling, but we really have a gut reaction with kids: it’s not ok, and when we know that there’s something we can do to make a difference, we do. The community steps up.

Baby to Boomer: Besides this food drive, what other needs do you have in the Seattle area? I’m sure you’re always accepting food donations, but can Seattle families come and help in food banks or do other services?

NW Harvest: The need is especially high during the summer, when kids are out of school and not receiving those critical free and reduced meals. Food drives provide variety in our offerings. We can also do a lot with a little: 67 cents provides three meals to those in need. We can do that partly because of our volunteers, whose work at our Cherry Street Food Bank in Seattle or at our warehouse in Kent keep things flowing efficiently.

Don’t forget to bring your peanut butter to this Friday’s game, or drop it off at your Seattle-area Ford Dealer before June 13!