Organizing Food System Orientations: Pre-Orientation Logistics
At IRC Seattle, a food system orientation is a service provided for newly arrived refugees, asylees, Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders, and other immigrants. The purpose of the orientation is to help IRC clients navigate the industrial food system in the United States. These orientations are led by the New Roots program at IRC Seattle, in coordination with the Reception and Placement department. Orientations include visits to grocery stores, supermarkets, food banks, and community gardens in the client’s neighborhood.
Some common topics that the orientations cover include how to shop on a limited budget; how to avoid highly processed or artificial foods; how to tell the difference between organic and non-organic foods; where to find culturally-relevant foods or appropriate substitutes in large grocery stores; how to sign up for a food bank, and when and how often to receive food; and how to use an EBT card to access SNAP benefits.
Step 1: Who Gets An Orientation?
According to the Food Secure Resettlement initiative, all clients resettled by the IRC must receive a food system orientation. However, the need for such an orientation is not the same from client to client. If a client is coming from an urban setting in which they shopped at a large grocery store, or if a client has a strong U.S. tie that is able to show them how to shop, there is less need for a full orientation. However, if a client is coming from a rural, subsistence agriculture background, or if a client does not have a strong U.S. tie to rely on, the need for a full orientation is greater.
Each month, the Reception and Placement department (R&P) will share a list of arrivals for the month. The first step once receiving this list is to set up a time to meet with R&P caseworkers to get their input on who among the arrivals needs an orientation. Caseworkers consider factors such as medical need, location, and community support when deciding who needs an orientation.
Step 2: Choose Locations
Once the clients who need orientations have been identified, you must identify the closest grocery store to the client’s new home, as well as the food bank that serves the area where the home is located. This process must be done for each client receiving an orientation. Keep in mind that food banks have limited hours on specific days of the week.
Step 3: Schedule the Tour with the Client
Once you know the locations, date, and time of the tour, you must call the client to schedule the tour. If the client does not speak English, you may use Language Line, the phone interpretation service that IRC Seattle is contracted with. Important information to gather on these calls includes:
- How many people will be attending the tour
- How many children will be attending, and their ages (for determining the correct car seats to bring)
- How many people attending have disabilities, if any
- If the client has received their EBT card (they must bring it with them on the tour)
Step 4: Schedule An Interpreter
This step is perhaps the most difficult part of the process. Food system orientations are most effective when an in-person interpreter attends the tour as well. IRC Seattle does not have paid interpreters on-staff, so New Roots has been using community interpreters for food system orientations. A list of available interpreters and their languages and contact information is in the Data Master spreadsheet. It is acceptable to schedule an interpreter before scheduling the orientation with the client, as the schedule availability of interpreters is often more restricted than that of the client. If the client does not speak English at all, it is best to have the interpreter meet you at the client’s home so that they can interpret the first meeting. Keep that in mind when asking for the interpreter’s availability.
Step 5: Create Calendar Invite for Orientation, and Reserve IRC Van If Needed
Once you have confirmed the orientation with the client and the interpreter, create a calendar event on Outlook to keep everyone on the same page. Invite the client’s caseworker to the event so they are aware that a tour is happening. Also be sure to reserve the IRC Passenger Van if you will be transporting more people than your personal vehicle can carry.
Step 7: Remind Client and Interpreter the Day Before
If the orientation has been scheduled out further than two days in advance, it is important to remind both the client and the interpreter that the orientation is still happening. Please refer to the Orientation Phone Script on Box for a detailed script of how to make reminder calls to the client.
Step 8: Prepare Food Bank Documentation
We have partnered with several of the food banks in South King County to allow for an expedited visit to the food bank on the day of the orientation. To make this process move smoothly, it is important to have any necessary documents filled out in advance. You can find the required information about the client and their family using ETO and IRIS. Food bank documentation usually asks for names, ages, birth dates, languages spoken, address, level of education, and employment status.