Summer program connects children with their food

As Scott Davies, Education and Outreach Programs Manager at Pike Place Market, guided a group of 27 children aged nine to 12 around the Seattle landmark where he works, the word “wow” came up a lot. While their small eyes were entranced by the market’s many attractions (buskers playing guitar, the giant squid sculpture, the gum wall), it was the market’s culinary wonders that really interested them.

One such sight was the market’s rooftop garden, where fresh vegetables are grown for a food bank. Children peppered him with questions.

“What’s this?” one boy asks.

“Those are bell peppers,” he says.

“What’s this mint?”

“No, that’s celery!”


They were getting a whole hour to explore and learn about healthy, wholesome, and local food. All of these children live in Seattle (their summer program is in central Beacon Hill), but about a third of them had never been to Pike Place Market before.

Back in spring, School’s Out Washington awarded grants to six summer programs serving low-income children to enable them to include cooking and nutrition in their activities. The goal of the program, called Let’s Get Cookin’, is to improve cooking skills, increase access to healthy, local foods, and decrease health disparities. It was made possible by our partnership with the City of Seattle Human Services Department Youth and Family Empowerment Division, Seattle Tilth, and Pike Place Market.

One of the grantees was the ARC summer camp at Jefferson Community Center, where these students hail from. Joe Renner and Tamera Williams, who work there, said the Market tour comes after 10 weeks of food-related experiences. In addition to typical summer program activities such as swimming, reading, games, and art, the students at Jefferson learned to make a new healthy recipe every week, such as salad tacos and quinoa chocolate cake. They also had one week focused entirely on food. They visited a blueberry farm and used the berries they picked to make jam, which the children took home to their families.


The other five grantees also visited Pike Place Market throughout the summer. The children received $6 worth of market money that allowed them to do their own shopping at the market’s many farmer stalls. Scott said this experience was not just empowering, but also educational.

“The way people shop at the market is how people shop around the world,” he said. “The experience extends beyond Seattle.”

Afterwards, the students gathered at Pike Place Market’s Atrium Kitchen to learn a healthy, easy, and inexpensive recipe. Working together, they learned to prepare a quinoa salad with corn, black beans, roasted red peppers, cilantro, and a garlic and olive oil dressing. (You can make it too! Download it here.)

“There’s this notion that to eat healthy, it has to be some kind of high falootin’ concept,” Scott said. “We eat so many processed foods, you think you have to make a big change, that it has to be hard. This program breaks those myths.”


The experience of cooking together built not just cooking skills, but also life skills such as leadership and team building, Tamera said.

“There’s a leader that develops who helps them work together and keep on task,” Tamera said.


Nutrition and cooking programs are important because many low-income children are not regularly exposed to healthy food options.

Green: Food deserts with 1/3 pop. more than a mile from a supermarket. Orange: areas with limited food access where 1/3 of pop. more than 1/2 mile from a grocery store. Click to explore. Source: USDA

Food deserts are real in south Seattle and King County. Green: high-poverty areas with 1/3 of pop. more than a mile from a supermarket. Orange: high-poverty areas with 1/3 of pop. more than 1/2 mile from a grocery store. Click to explore a nation-wide atlas.
Source: USDA

Many areas in Seattle King County are considered food deserts, areas where a third or more of people live more than a mile from a supermarket and where 20% or more of people live below the poverty line, a combination of factors that limits families’ access to healthy food. Residents of food deserts often have limited food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options.

One place that is almost a food desert is central Beacon Hill, where a significant portion of the population is more than half a mile from a supermarket, according to the USDA, and where Jefferson Community Center is located.

“A lot of the kids had never even had a salad before,” Joe said. “I was like, wow.”

The limitations of food desert living was visible in some of the lunches the children brought with them for the field trip. As the cooking lesson reached a natural lull (everything was ready but the quinoa), some kids pulled out foods prepared from whole ingredients (sandwiches, quesadillas, chow mein), but others open bags and bottles of junk food standards (Cheez-Its, chips, a whole quart of Gatorade).

Even if some meals haven’t changed, the kids have. Joe said, “Their mindset, their ideas of what they should be eating, that has changed.”

The Let’s Get Cookin’ program not only teaches children the importance of healthy eating, but also how to eat healthy. The skills these children (and those at the five other Let’s Get Cookin’ sites) have learned will stick with them through their adolescence and their entire lives.

“I wish I had these skills when I was their age,” Scott said.

Please Welcome Franci Davila

Joining our education policy and advocacy team is Master of Social Work Intern Franci Dávila. Take a moment to get to know her little better.

Where are you from?

Franci Davila

Franci Dávila

I was born and raised in Hartford, CT. Growing up, I experienced the public and private worlds of education, attending elementary and middle school in the inner city and then going to a private high school on the outskirts of that city. When in came time to choose a college, my fear of the unknown kept me close to home where I went to Trinity College, a liberal arts private institution. While there, I began working with an after school organization called, Organized Parents Make A Difference (OPMAD). OPMAD gave me my first taste of grassroots organizing that utilized and empowered the city’s constituents. Eventually my fear of the unknown evolved into a curiosity for it; so I followed an opportunity out in Kauai, where I worked with children and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities in their local school system and community. After experiencing the amazement of the beautiful Hawaiian culture, I was brought to Seattle where I am currently working on my masters at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work.

What do you like to do in your own time?

I have a passion for the classic sport of boxing. So whenever I hear about an exhibition, I have a blast going and rooting for the underdog. I also enjoy finding unique little boutiques where I can get lost amongst historical and bizarre trinkets of sorts. And when keeping it simple, drinking a sweet cup of coffee while indulging in a pleasure read can always pass the time easily.

What brought you to School’s Out Washington?

Over the years, I’ve worked in a variety of organizations that have provided afterschool services for children, especially in low-income neighborhoods. As a professional and an advocate, I’m constantly reminded of how critical it is to provide equitable services for children in order to give more youth a fighting chance. I have dedicated myself to working with and for children who will one day become the primary contributors of our communities. While attending University of Washington’s School of Social Work, I’ve been given the opportunity to intern with School’s Out Washington; and continue learning how to provide for the children of our communities on a regional level.

Tell us one thing that you are proud of.

I’m proud of the unity of my family. Through the years of struggle and growth, we have grown together. Our love and loyalty has been strengthened through our adversity; and regardless of the geographical distance or the external negativities, our love and loyalty has held true. I am proud of us as a unit.

Welcome our new advocacy intern, Tracey Hansen-Lamont

Let’s get to know Tracey Hansen-Lamont, a Master of Social Work intern joining SOWA’s advocacy and education policy team!

Where are you from?

I’ve lived my entire life in the Pacific Northwest. I went to elementary school in Ballard, middle school in Crown Hill, and high school in Ferndale and I attended college at Western Washington University, Shoreline Community College, and the University of Washington. Though I’ve lived in Bellingham and Ferndale, Seattle has always felt like my home. When I was young I spent countless summer days fishing on the docks at Golden Gardens, riding the tire swing at Salmon Bay Park, and shooting hoops at the Loyal Heights Community Center. The Pacific Northwest through its natural landscapes, beautiful cultural diversity, and lovely people has shown me how magnificent nature can be, how wonderful different cultures are and how to be a conscious human being.

What do you like to do in your own time?

I like to play West African Drums. In addition, I like to do photography, spend time with friends and family, and be in nature.

What brought you to School’s Out Washington?

Ever since I was a child I’ve had a strong commitment to social justice. As a graduate student in Social Work at the University of Washington, my commitment to social justice has grown even stronger. I chose to do my practicum at School’s Out Washington, because they’re committed to social justice as well. By insuring that all youth (in particular youth in poverty) are given a chance to attend excellent afterschool programs, School’s Out Washington strives to create more equality in our world.

Tell us one thing that you are proud of.

I’m proud of my education, my family, and my relationships. As a young boy, I never thought that I would have graduated college, let alone be a graduate student at the University of Washington; therefore, I’m proud to say that I’ve accomplished both. I’m also proud of my family. Throughout the years my family has gone through many trials; however, because of our deep love for one another we continue to charge forward. Lastly, I’m proud of my relationship with my partner. She and I have been been together for over two years and we continue to help each other become our best selves.

Summerstravaganza: What’s Happening Around the State

School’s Out Washington has ramped up our focus on summer and is excited about the great work happening across the state this year. Check out some of these programs we’re partnering with, great examples of the impact that summer programming can have on children and youth.

Seattle Summer Learning Featured on KUOW

Last week, KUOW’s Ann Dornfeld highlighted Seattle Public Schools’ summer program expansion demonstrating not only why summer is important, but how programs can support academic success while also providing fun, engaging learning opportunities. Hear the full story.

STEM & Quality in Seattle’s Central District


Courtesy Public News Service

Last month, we highlighted summer programs taking part in School’s Out Washington’s STEM pilot project. Some of these programs are also participating in a Summer Learning Program Quality Intervention, and were highlighted in a news story that aired on June 19th.

As Washington Middle School Community Learning Center coordinator Marissa Rousselle states in the story talking about her program, “If I can get a student enrolled in this gardening club that they really connect to – and maybe it’s a student who told me they didn’t like science, before – perhaps they’ll come to school and pay more attention in their science class,” Rousselle said, “because they realize the connection to this club that they actually really enjoy.” Marissa Rousselle, said the goal is for summer’s enthusiasm to continue into the school year. Read the full story.

Centered on Community in Chewelah

A Feed Your Brain grantee in the town of Chewelah north of Spokane, the local elementary School  is centering their summer programming around community. Children are learning all about what constitutes a community, from government institutions to necessary services. The program has included field trips to police and fire departments and the town mayor’s office. The summer teachers have guided and helped the students come up with questions to ask before they go to conduct interviews.

In line with the theme, the kids keep vocabulary word lists of related terminology, for example “voting” and “municipal.” They then write journal reflections on their experience, coming up with other questions centered around the theme (such as “How does the water get into the water tower?”).

Youth & Family Link in Kelso Merging Literacy and Fitness

At Wallace Elementary School in Kelso, also a Feed Your Brain grantee, the program staff set up decorations to provide a camp-like feel: canopies, sleeping bags, pillow pets, and camp fire made of tissue paper. These sites couple literacy activities with a physical fitness program. They gets the kids moving in fun and creative ways, often incorporating literacy in the movement (e.g. spell a word while you are doing jumping jacks).

Culture and Food at El Centro de la Raza in Seattle

El Centro de la Raza was one of six summer programs selected to receive a Let’s Get Cookin’ grant provided with funding from the City of Seattle Human Services Department Youth and Family Empowerment Division, Seattle Tilth Association, and Pike Place Market Foundation and PDA. Let’s Get Cookin’ works to increase access to healthy local foods, increase cooking skills, and decrease health disparities. El Centro’s summer program is doing that by bringing children into their community garden to harvest fresh ingredients, as well as learning about nutrition and Mexican recipes. Children are learning the history of the food and its role in their culture. They will work in small project groups responsible for developing and cooking their own recipe for a final project, including a tasting for parents during a final summer celebration

Dr. Chris Emdin to be Bridge Keynote Speaker

Dr. Chris Emdin

Dr. Chris Emdin

School’s Out is thrilled to welcome Dr. Chris Emdin to Seattle as a Bridge keynote speaker this October! Dr. Emdin is is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University; where he also serves as Director of Science Education at the Center for Health Equity and Urban Science Education.

As a social critic, public intellectual and science advocate, Dr. Emdin speaks on a range of topics that include hip-hop education, STEM education, politics, race, class, diversity and youth empowerment.

Dr. Emdin will discuss his vision of What is at the heart of learning: helping young people become themselves. Grounded in what he calls reality pedagogy, Chris highlights the need to focus on young people’s realities and personal experiences to support their learning and development.

Check out Dr. Emdin’s website to learn more about his work to empower and inspire youth.

Now in its 13th year, School’s Out’s Bridge Conference is the premier conference for afterschool and youth development professionals in the Northwest. During this year’s conference, participants will explore the big question, What is at the heart of learning? Rather than focusing on getting the “right answer,” educators should develop good questions, support children and youth in the process of learning, and inspire curiosity. The conference will be at the HUB on the University of Washington campus, October 19 and 20. You can learn more about the conference, or you can register now.

State Budget is Complete…Sort of

Going into its third special session, the Washington State Legislature finally wrapped up the 2015-17 budget, at least we think. As we said in our last post before the budget was finalized, there are some good things for afterschool and summer programs:

  • The Early Achievers School Age Quality Pilot was included in the Early Start Act (House Bill 1491) and the budget. The goal of the pilot is to increase quality in licensed school-age (5-12) child care programs. It will be developed by the state’s education and early learning departments with input from the afterschool and summer field. SOWA will be closely monitoring the development of the pilot.
  • The potential $8 million cut to the Working Connections Child Care Subsidy program and the proposed elimination of the statewide child care information and referral system were thwarted thanks to all the letters of support advocates statewide sent their legislators. Both programs remain funded and intact.
  • The Youth Recreational Fund, which helps fund building construction costs was increased to over $7.3 million over the two year budget cycle.
  • Funding for afterschool mentoring was included in the budget and will support five sites over the next two years.

While the legislature passed and the governor signed the budget, there was a bit of a challenge that followed. Critical to making the budget work was suspending Initiative 1351. This initiative had a goal of reducing class size and increasing the number of other supportive school staff. The initiative also came with a $2 billion price tag and no dedicated funding source. The House voted to suspend the initiative, but the Senate could not get the two-thirds majority. The Senate will try to vote on the suspension again, and until then it is unclear what it would mean if they have to find funding for the initiative. More to come.

While these modest gains will improve the quality and scope of existing afterschool programs, it will do nothing to increase access children and youth have to afterschool and summer. Over the summer and fall we will be gearing up for the next legislative session and with your help will create momentum for a big win for kids afterschool and in the summer. But the key to success is you.

If you are interested in learning more about advocacy and educating legislators (example: bringing them to visit your program or your child’s program), please email SOWA Education Policy and Advocacy Director David Beard at You can also be notified about future policy updates by signing up for our Action Alerts. Learn more about Action Alerts here, or Sign up now to add your voice!

A Few Wins for Afterschool/Summer in State Budget

The Washington State Legislature finally came to an agreement on the state budget in a third special session. Below are some of the wins that will strengthen afterschool and summer programs for our children and youth:

  • The Early Start Act passed by great margins. The goal of the bill is to ensure all children in child care are in quality programs. A part of that bill includes supporting quality child care for children ages 5-12 through the School-Age Early Achievers Pilot. The pilot will be developed by the state’s education and early learning departments with input from the afterschool and summer field. SOWA will be closely monitoring the development of the pilot.
  • The potential $8 million cut to the Working Connections Child Care Subsidy program and the proposed elimination of the statewide child care information and referral system were thwarted thanks to all the letters of support advocates statewide sent their legislators. Both programs remain funded and intact.
  • The Youth Recreational Fund, which helps fund building construction costs was increased to over $7.3 million over the two year budget cycle.
  • Funding for afterschool mentoring was included in the budget and will support five sites over the next two years.

We’ll need your help over the next year in making afterschool and summer programs a priority for legislators. If you are interested in learning more about advocacy and educating legislators (example: bringing them to visit your program or your child’s program), please email SOWA Education Policy and Advocacy Director David Beard at You can also be notified about future policy updates by signing up for our Action Alerts.

With your help, we can ensure more kids have access to afterschool and summer programs!

SOWA’s David Beard to join nationwide fellowship

David Beard

David Beard

School’s Out Washington’s very own David Beard will be joining fourteen other leaders of the afterschool and expanded learning field as White-Riley-Peterson Policy Fellows, a partnership between the Riley Institute at Furman University and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

Through discussion of actual case studies led by policy change-makers, the Fellowship equips graduates with a real world understanding of the art and science of sound policy-making for afterschool and expanded learning. In the 10-month program, which begins in October, Fellows will study afterschool/expanded learning policy and develop and implement state-level policy projects in partnership with their Statewide Afterschool Networks and the national Afterschool Alliance.

For the children and youth of Washington state, this means David will learn from some of the best minds in expanded learning nationwide, allowing him to be an even better advocate for strong afterschool and summer learning in our state.

David will be joining these other leaders over the next year:

Thomas Azzarella, Director, Alaska Afterschool Network (Anchorage, Alaska)
Melissa Beck, Network Lead, The Civic Canopy (Denver, Colo.)
Susan Gamble, Network Lead, West Virginia Statewide Afterschool Network (Charleston, W.V.)
Ebony Grace, Director, Expanded Learning Opportunities, New Jersey School Age Care Coalition (NJSACC): The Statewide Afterschool Network (Westfield, N.J.)
Darren Grimshaw, Board Member, Iowa Afterschool Alliance (Burlington, Iowa)
Don Kent, Chairman, Net Literacy (Carmel, Ind.)
Dave Knutson, Vice President-Government Affairs & Special Initiatives, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee (Milwaukee, Wis.)
Lani Lingo, State Director, Education & Specialized Programs, Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs (Tallahassee, Fla.)
Alison Reis-Khanna, Director of Partnerships and Quality Initiatives, Texas Partnership for Out of School Time (TXPOST) (Austin, Texas)
Tammy Shay, Program Coordinator, Maryland Out of School Time (MOST) Network (Baltimore, Md.)
Erik Skold, Associate Director, Sprockets: Saint Paul’s Out-of-School Time Network (St. Paul, Minn.)
Bethany Thramer, Policy & Outreach Coordinator, Oregon Afterschool for Kids, (Eugene, Ore.)
Craig Williams, Teacher, Wyoming Afterschool Alliance (Cheyenne, Wyo.)
Kathryn Johnson, Executive Director, Alternatives, Inc. (Ft. Monroe, Va.)

New Summer Data Helps Make the Case

We have new data to help you make the case for why summer learning matters. The Afterschool Alliance just released their America After 3pm polling data focused on summer. You can check-out where Washington stands when it comes to summer learning.

Participation in summer learning programs in Washington has increased in the last five years, but there is still tremendous unmet demand, according to data from the study. It found that 24 percent of families in the state report that at least one of their children participated in a summer learning program in 2013, compared with 21 percent in 2008. Nationally, 33 percent of families have at least one child in a summer learning program, up from 25 percent in 2008.

America After 3PM is a household survey commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance. It includes responses from more than 30,000 U.S. families, including 293 in Washington. It was conducted in 2014, with parents reporting on their children’s 2013 participation in summer learning programs.

The demand for these programs far exceeds supply. While 37 percent of Washington parents report that they would like their child to participate in a summer learning program, just 24 percent of parents report having at least one child in a program. Nationally, 51 percent of parents say they would like their child to participate.

“The numbers are clear. Demand far outstrips the supply of summer programs,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. “That’s also the case with the afterschool programs from which many summer learning programs spring. We’re not reaching nearly as many children as we could, and some of them will be at a disadvantage in the classroom next fall as a result.”

There is also strong public support for funding for summer learning programs. 83 percent of Washington parents support public funding for summer learning programs. Nationally, 85 percent support public funding, and support is at or above 75 percent in every state.

You can view more of the findings on the America After 3pm website, and compare Washington to national and state data.

Programs Teaching Science through Gardening

School’s Out Washington is leading a pilot process to learn more about how Washington’s afterschool programs can offer more and better STEM opportunities. Ten sites across the state are involved in this AYD STEM Pilot. We provided grants of up to $500 for materials they can use in at least one STEM activity per week. Through funding from the Noyce Foundation, each program will also receive assessment, training and coaching on providing high-quality STEM activities over the course of the project, which will run through December.

But what do those STEM activities look like? You might be surprised to learn that STEM learning isn’t just about test tubes and quadcopters. Two programs involved in the AYD STEM Pilot are the Seattle Parks and Recreation community learning center program at Washington Middle School (Seattle) and the Center for Human Services (Shoreline), who are both using gardening as a way to infuse STEM learning into helping youth understand how plants grow and where our food comes from.

The program at Washington Middle School is working with Green Plate Special, a Seattle non-profit whose mission is to “inspire and empower youth to experience food in new ways through gardening, cooking and eating together,” to create a garden right on the school grounds. They currently have 11 students signed up.

8th Grader Irqa Mohamed recently experienced her first session. In this video, it’s clear she’s proud to work in the garden.

Like most kids, the participants in The Center for Human Services’ afterschool program love food. The staff frequently offer cooking projects, but CHS AmeriCorps volunteer Emily Smith wanted to take it further and teach them where their food comes from. Lacking outdoor space for a full garden, she decided to start a simple indoor gardening project.

Students got a choice to plant snap peas, carrots, jalapenos, or cilantro. These plants are still growing indoors at the program, and the kids regularly ask to see their plants and check in on their growth.

The kids have learned a lot about the concepts of plant growth, but they have also learned how to delay gratification, slowly investing in their plants and waiting for their fruit to come. When following up with the kids about how their plants have grown, 5th grader Alejandra, said that the most surprising thing about growing a jalapeno pepper plant is, “it takes a lot of time.”

The project hasn’t been without roadblocks. There are no staff present to watch and care for the plants over the weekend.

“We keep the plants in a sunny area while we are there during the day,” Smith wrote, “but during the weekend we have to lock the plants up in a dark office which has stunted their growth a bit.”

Still, even in the dark, the plants are well watered. On the advice of a UW Botany professor, Smith built a self-watering sub-irrigation system made with recycled inverted 2 liter bottles (pictured).

Plants growing in the soda bottle auto watering system.  Photo courtesy

Plants growing indoors in the soda bottle auto watering system. Photo courtesy Emily Smith

“This was a very accessible and cost-effective idea, as the materials were recycled and easy to acquire and the plants were easy to maintain,” she wrote.

We look forward to learning more about all the programs supported through the AYD STEM pilot and sharing learning and ideas for how to infuse high-quality STEM practices into AYD programs.  To learn more about SOWA’s STEM initiative, visit our website, or contact Krista Galloway at (206) 336-6923.

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