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Picardo P-Patch Partners with Sand Point Family Housing to Bring Fresh Produce, Herbs, and Flowers to Residents

The Giving Garden system has been an integral part of the P-Patch Community Gardening Program since its creation in 1973. Each year, tens of thousands of pounds of fresh, organic produce is donated to food banks and meal programs across the city. Last year, Seattle’s first P-Patch, Picardo Farms, made the decision to stop delivering produce to food banks and instead transition their donation program to building long-term community partnerships with organizations in their neighborhood. One of those organizations is Solid Ground Sand Point Family Housing.

Each week during the growing season, fresh produce from Picardo is delivered to the family housing facility in Magnuson Park and set out on tables for residents to collect. We recently connected with Matthew White, a residential case manager at Solid Ground to learn more about the produce donations.

Can you tell us a bit about your job?

I am the residential case manager here at Solid Ground. The job is quite multifaceted. There is the business side of it and then the interpersonal relationship side of it. The business side of what I do deals with legality issues, helping occupationally, or providing connections to external or internal resources. And then I would say the bigger side, probably 85-90 percent of what I do is the interpersonal and relational side. That means meeting needs emotionally and mentally, helping establish and recognize healthy boundaries, and knowing when, where, and how to operate. And what that means for me, at least, is being able to help somebody else, resident or staff alike, while still staying in my lane. When it comes to offering advice, especially about their home, I do my best not to tell anybody what to do but to make sure to let them know what I think their options are for success. Sometimes you’ve got to be a big brother, sometimes you’ve got to be a dad, sometimes you’ve got to be a mom, sometimes you’ve got to be a babysitter, there’s a lot of things. Then also be a confidant. You have to be someone they can trust, someone who is a great sounding board, someone who is an active listener. I love it because there is never a dull day. It’s an amazing job.

Can you tell me a little bit about Solid Ground Sand Point Family Housing area and the community it serves?

A wheelbarrow filled with kale, herbs and flowers from Picardo garden
Produce, herbs, and flowers picked for donation at Picardo Farms

We are a permanent supportive housing facility. We are funded by King County and operate under HUD (Housing & Urban Development) policies. And so basically, a lot of our residents are either recovering or dealing with active issues, whether mentally, physically, or emotionally. Here at Sand Point Family Housing specifically, we have requirements about housing families, so there are no individuals at our facilities. Our residents have some mental or physical disability. Sometimes there are negative connotations, but that isn’t really what we attach to it. It’s just saying that there are areas our residents are looking to grow in, or parts of life where there was some neglect that need a little more attention and a little more care. We offer residents support like internal and external resources, whether it be behavioral health clinicians, afterschool tutoring for the kids, programming in the summertime, activities for kids and parents around town, and things like that.

Once a month, we try to offer some kind of course, whether it is for things like budgeting, home etiquette, financial resources, life insurance, etc. Topics that are helpful for our residents, but that maybe they never thought about or never got to experience, but are important and helpful. Some of our residents, a lot of them just are unaware. We have a very close connection with the Boys and Girls Club of Wallingford, different programs at the University of Washington, Picardo Farms, and other organizations around the neighborhood that are just an amazing blessing and resource. We like to make sure our residents are aware of those places, but also that we’re spending that time creating those connections and building long-term muscle memory life skills. Not just telling them about things but helping them develop those skills and teaching them to do those things on their own. But to me, success is how can I teach them or show them how to keep that and then grow exponentially.

How do the produce donations from the Picardo P-Patch support the residents here at Sand Point Family Housing?

For me, I’ve been here 10 months and counting. During that time frame, that fresh food has been such a blessing. Not even just for the residents, but for staff alike. When people see something manifested, it creates a safer space of vulnerability for them to want to do it themselves. When staff here at Sand Point are taking the produce and talking about what a benefit it is, and residents see us having lunch and eating the lettuce or eating the kale or squash, it really encourages the kids do the same. Initially, with the produce not having high fructose corn, syrup, and all the sugar, the kids were a little hesitant. But, over time, I’ve seen them start to enjoy it and grow fonder of wanting to consume the produce as they see their parents do. I think they also see the connection to their food and learn about how it’s grown and where it comes from. So, it’s not just educating them on the benefits of eating this kind of food, but also on the work put in. There is a lot of labor that’s done at Picardo Farms, and so understanding the fact that someone worked to not only grow this, create it, but also to bring it here to us. There’s a different level of value and appreciation I see with the kids.

Garden plots with lush vegetation arranged in the courtyard of a brick building
Garden beds at Sand Point Family Housing

It’s really created a positive domino effect for them. As they continue to eat better, I see a lot more unity in the homes. The weather helps as well, but I see a lot more parents outside playing with kids, families outside engaging with each other, going on family trips, or people stopping by the office for zoo tickets or bus passes. We also have gardens in the back of the south building, which I’ve seen some of our residents, a lot of the children, go out there to join their parents and help the volunteers. I see how it just correlates.

The program is really a blessing, I feel like Picardo has really created an avenue of, not only positivity but an opportunity to redirect what folks are doing; redirect decision-making, and do something more creative, and more productive. I see residents not only eating healthier but making better decisions too.

Solid Ground Sandpoint Family Housing also receives produce donations from the Magnuson P-Patch.