Abigail Findley’s Amazing Year of Service as a Harvest VISTA

11 Nov 2020, by Admin in Vashon Maury Island Community Food Bank

Abigail Findley recently completed her AmeriCorps term of service as a Harvest VISTA member. She served as a program coordinator with the Vashon-Maury Island Community Food Bank and the Food Access Partnership. FAP is a program of the Vashon Island Growers Association and strives to make local food more accessible to community members while fairly compensating farmers. The goal of this collaboration is to connect surplus island harvests with consumers in order to combat the economic obstacles that historically prevent fresh, local produce from being a staple in food-insecure communities. Disclaimer: Photos with unmasked individuals were taken pre-COVID.

In November of 2019, the Harvest VISTA Abigail Findley started her term of service with a list of goals she wanted to focus on and complete this year. From November to February everything was going according to plan. Abigail was meeting with local farmers to set up purchasing contracts, recruiting gardeners for the Grow-a-Row program, meeting with community leaders to plan events and lessons about food security for the local elementary school children, and dressing up as a pineapple to raise funds for Vashon Food Bank programming.

Then March came around and the first cases of COVID-19 on the island were reported. During the first week of March, Abigail was eager to present a lesson on food security to students at Chautauqua elementary as they kicked off their March Food Drive. A week later the schools closed down, and on March 25th Governor Inslee announced the stay at home order, and all non-essential businesses and activities were prohibited. Goals now needed to be re-evaluated and reset. To destress in the office Abigail took the liberty of testing out some personal protective equipment, such as an inflatable dinosaur costume to cover her body while she also wore her face mask.

With millions of people out of work, food chain supplies disrupted, and families isolating themselves for safety, increasing food access while supporting the local food system became more important than ever. Abigail worked with Food Access Partnership and the Vashon High School to distribute Farm Bucks during the weekly summer lunch program. Families with school-age children could pick up a free lunch five days a week and also Farm Bucks that could be redeemed at local farm stands for fresh produce. Farm bucks were also distributed twice a month during the harvest season to food bank customers on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Abigail oversaw the distribution of 4,600 dollars of farm bucks into the Vashon Community. 

Because the summer farmers market on Vashon Island was canceled for the season, Abigail worked with King County Farmers Share, and the Vashon Island Growers Association to try and help replace some of the economic loss experienced by small farmers on the island.  While coordinating with VIGA, Abigail was able to distribute 12,000 dollars of funding provided by KCFS to eleven different Vashon island farmers. 3,973.5 pounds of produce was purchased, which included 30 different varieties of vegetables. Food bank customers loved getting fresh island produce all season and we’re so grateful to the hard work of island farmers. 

Without the diligent hard work of the Vashon Community, none of these programs would have been successful. As a Harvest VISTA, Abigail was in charge of increasing program capacity and sustainability at the Vashon Food Bank, but it was gardeners, farmers, families, and the island community at large who stepped up to take care of each other during these uncertain times.