Health - Public Health News

Posted on: October 18, 2023

County Council Funding Supports Kitchen Upgrade in Rural ‘Food Desert’

The East Whatcom Regional Resource Center (EWRRC) kitchen will soon be commercially licensed, thanks to support from the County Council. The kitchen, which currently only has a limited use permit, was allocated $150,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars by the Council on September 26 to facilitate the expansion.

The EWRRC is located in a USDA-designated food desert and residents have identified this project as a critical community-based solution to food insecurity in the area. The EWRRC is currently used for several community food programs, such as monthly community meals, Head Start meal preparation, and SNAP-Ed nutrition classes. The kitchen upgrade will allow for expansion of these programs, as well as more food access programs, such as senior meals and meal packaging for use by the Foothills Food Bank. 

The EWRRC kitchen is also currently used in limited capacity by cottage industry businesses. The upgrade will include the important installation of a fire suppression hood and a commercial range. This will allow for more Foothills community members to use the kitchen for small-scale commercial businesses, such as creating chili powder and pickles for farmer’s markets. 

Jessica Bee, EWRRC Manager, has been working on this project for several years. She noted that “from Community Meals, to Small Business, to Youth Programming, having a commercial kitchen in east Whatcom will help improve food security in multiple ways and allow folks the ability to cook culturally relevant foods in their community center. I am grateful to the County Council, Whatcom County Parks Department and the Food System Committee for all their work to bring this opportunity to fruition.”

The Council identified this project as fulfilling many of the objectives from the recently passed Whatcom County Food System Plan which provides a roadmap for strengthening our local food system and dismantling food deserts.

“This is an ideal first step by the county,” said Food System Committee Chairman Riley Sweeney. “It will provide real tangible results building on the good work already being done in East County. We are grateful the county is putting resources behind this critical work.”

This ARPA recommendation was the first funding received in support of the Food System Plan, created by the Whatcom County Food System Committee, that advises the Whatcom County Council and County Executive. The purpose of this committee is to draft, implement, provide oversight for, and regularly update a county-wide food system plan to strengthen our local and regional food system.

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