Food Resources for the Allen Family Center
Allen Family Center (AFC), a part of the nonprofit organization Mary’s Place, is a family driven resource hub that focuses on the needs and goals of families experiencing or on the verge of homelessness (Mercy Housing, 2022). They use a multigenerational approach to break the cycle of homelessness which promotes inclusivity, safety and provides opportunities to improve health (Mercy Housing, 2022).
When meeting with the team, we identified a concern as the limited food supplies available to AFC and the lack of food outreach they can provide. Providing resources to the community is a goal of AFC and many families are dependent on their supplies. All parties agreed more nutritious resources are needed and would be helpful for families regularly visiting AFC. As a group of five nursing students from Seattle Pacific University’s Lydia Green Nursing Program, our purpose was to provide families with information on inclusive and sustainable food resources. We included recipes that also catered to the medically fragile children that take part in the Popsicle Place program at Mary’s Place and AFC, specifically children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, an individual experiences food insecurity when they lack access to food that is necessary for adequate growth and development (FAO, 2022). The incidence of food insecurity is higher in families that live under the poverty line (Martin, 2022). In Seattle, WA, 10.2% of families live under the poverty line and lack safe housing (United States Census Bureau, 2021). The neighborhood surrounding AFC has recorded that 26% of the population experiences food insecurity (Seattle.gov, 2022).
When Hill et al. (2022) surveyed low-income older adults in Washington state, they found that 26% of participants experienced food insecurity. Hill et al. (2022) explained that while enrolling in programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can be effective, barriers include stigma and overcoming eligibility requirements. Therefore, SNAP is very underutilized in the adult population. When considering youth in the Greater Seattle Area, Kloubec & Harris (2022) found that only 6% of youth surveyed reported that they were given information about food access from a social worker or case manager. Additionally, 41.2% of participants responded that they learned about food acquisition methods on their own.
Seattle has made great efforts in establishing resources to provide for those that are experiencing food insecurity. An example of such efforts is the Food Insecurity Screening Community of Practice which is a group of healthcare providers that screen patients that are at risk for developing or currently experiencing food insecurity. They can then intervene and connect patients to food resources (KingCounty.gov, 2021). However, a large majority of low-income individuals and individuals experiencing homelessness do not have access to and/or do not visit a healthcare provider, causing a disconnect in the referrals to food resources (Hill et al., 2022).
Our research shows that a large majority of individuals in King County experience food insecurity. Many interventions are in place to battle food insecurity, but there is a disconnect between these interventions and resources available, such as posters and fliers, that can point these individuals and families to these interventions. By providing food resource binders to AFC, families will have easy access to information regarding where to access food. This can help eliminate the stigma of asking, bridge the gap of missing information and help improve health literacy.
Activities and Rationale
Lewin’s change theory is a three-phase model for effective and sustainable changes with positive outcomes (Marquis, 2019). In the beginning stage of “unfreezing”, problems are identified, prioritized, and debated in the environment (Marquis, 2019). Extensive research through windshield surveys of the community and neighborhood was mandatory in order to find more information about the neighborhood’s food insecurity issues. The following phase is the “movement” stage, where the project for change is created and worked on to finalize and implement into the setting (Marquis, 2019). As a group, we created three binders with Spanish translations for organizations with food resources. Twelve organizations were included in the binders in which we visited to confirm all information. In addition, there are a handful of recipes made with common food found in food banks.
We presented the team members with these binders to be placed at the front desk, the community room, and carried during outreach visits. We included advertisement posters for placement around AFC to ensure families are aware of the resource binders. The last phase of Lewin’s change theory, “refreezing”, is focused on long term integration (Marquis, 2019). We provided education on the binders and allowed the team to work with them for a week before evaluating the efficacy. Education is important for the full and best utilization of creations. With all phases complete, the project of change should continue sustainability until future advancements and opportunities arise leading to a new change.
After a week with the binders, we issued surveys to the staff at AFC which asked how many times the binders had been used, what worked, what did not work, and what feedback they have for future binders. We were provided with helpful feedback as well as suggestions for adaptations.
The food resource binders were used 15 times over a one-week period. Additionally, the staff members felt comfortable offering the binders to families. After reviewing the results of the seven surveys that were completed, we concluded that the staff felt as if the posters and binders were a great resource to have. Through educating the staff on how to utilize the binders, we promoted sustainability of use. Suggestions were provided to the staff to aid families in finding directions and utilizing the computers at the resource center. Furthermore, the information provided addressed health equity and cultural sensitivity through catering to different cultural and dietary needs. The outcome of the project was three Spanish-translated food resource binders, posters, eight food bank friendly recipes, and two window advertisements.
Through this project, we provided information on sustainable food resources for families visiting AFC. Language barriers were a limitation for this project. When meeting with the agency, we noted there were many families that speak in African dialects. The center did not have a translation service available for use, therefore the quantity of people that view and read the binders is limited. Another limitation to the success of our project was the lack of families visiting AFC. There is an unknown amount of traffic coming into AFC, and it varies according to the time of year. Our project timeline was short and limited our project time and the evaluation period which constricted the amount of feedback from staff.
Moving forward, future binders could provide more inclusive and accommodating information. Overall, the project was successful and can be utilized at AFC as well as at other locations that provide resources for those experiencing homelessness.
Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. (2022). Hunger and Food Insecurity. https://www.fao.org/hunger/en/
Hill, C., Tseng, A., Holzhauer, K., Littman, A., & Jones-Smith, J. (2022). Association between health care access and food insecurity among lower-income older adults with multiple chronic conditions in Washington State, USA. Public Health Nutrition, 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1368980022001240
Kloubec, J., & Harris, C. (2021). Food acquisition strategies of homeless youth in the Greater Seattle area: A cross-sectional study. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 121 (1), 47-58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2020.05.013
Marquis, B. L., & Huston, C. (2019). Leadership Roles and Management Functions in Nursing (10th ed.). Wolters Kluwer Health. https://coursepoint.vitalsource.com/books/9781975153984
Martin, A. (2022, September 13). Food Security and Nutritional Assistance. Economic Research Service U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/ag-and-food-statistics-charting-the-essentials/food-security-and-nutrition-assistance/
Mercy Housing (2022). Allen Family Center: A Family Sized Solution. https://www.mercyhousing.org/northwest/mount-baker-family-housing/
Public Health Seattle & King County (2020, August). Increased in Food Needs in King County, WA, Spring-Summer 2020. https://kingcounty.gov/depts/health/covid-19/data/impacts/~/media/depts/health/communicable-diseases/documents/C19/food-insecurity-brief-report-august-2020.ashx
Seattle.gov. (2022). Food Insecurity. https://www.seattle.gov/rsji/racial-equity-research/food-insecurity#community
United States Census Bureau (2021, July 1). Seattle City, Washington. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/seattlecitywashington
Kolbjornsrud, Anna; Kaur, Jagrup; Kaur, Simran; Miller, Talyn; and Schrader, Chloe, "Food Resources for the Allen Family Center" (2022). Nursing Leadership in Community Engagement Projects. 22.
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