Whidbey Island Nourishes continues work to keep children fed | NOTABLE

 WIN volunteers work with pointed efficiency in the kitchen to get lunches made, packed and ready for distribution to the schools and other locations on the South End. - Photos courtesy of Mary Fisher
WIN volunteers work with pointed efficiency in the kitchen to get lunches made, packed and ready for distribution to the schools and other locations on the South End.
— image credit: Photos courtesy of Mary Fisher

One Saturday a volunteer read a note left by a child at a Whidbey Island Nourishes (WIN) vending machine. It read: “Thank you so much for the yummy oranges. Fruit is expensive, so I don’t get it a lot, but it makes me feel good to eat healthy food. Thank you. PS: The banana bread is super good!”

The youth had drawn a heart at the end of the note.

WIN founder Mary Fisher said that the comment box is an eye-opener for her and the small army of dedicated volunteers who make and distribute lunches to hungry South Whidbey School District children through its Backpack Program and through a free, healthy-food vending machine at the South Whidbey Commons in Langley.

“It is always nice when we get a note saying that a family is doing better and no longer needs our assistance,” Fisher said.

“But that is always tempered by those who get added to our weekly lunch tallies,” she added.

Homelessness is one issue that comes up often for the group.

Fisher said when people are struggling with issues surrounding shelter it means that food is precarious, as well.

In a recent recap of WIN’s activities, Fisher included the latest statistics on South Whidbey families who are known to be struggling with various issues of homelessness, whether it’s living in a shelter, a car, with friends or relatives, on someone’s couch or who is unsheltered altogether. The numbers were given to her by the Readiness to Learn Foundation, a nonprofit which provides coordinated services for children and families in Island County and the Stanwood area. The statistics are compiled from RTL’s county-wide McKinney-Vento consortium data.

Since April on South Whidbey it was reported that there are 23 unaccompanied youths, 73 youths who are homeless in the district, 39 homeless persons “doubled up” or living with relatives, friends or not in their own houses, 17 persons living in a shelter and 16 living unsheltered altogether.

The spring has been a very busy time for WIN, Fisher said, with many lunches made to keep up with demand.

The program and its outreach has been so successful that other communities are inquiring about the WIN model.

“Recently we assisted the Northshore PTA group to start a feeding program and they are already up and running with a beginning program they have dubbed Community Kitchen,” Fisher said.

The Chimmicum School District on the Olympic Peninsula may also be getting a helping hand from Elizabeth Felt, a minister in Port Ludlow who is a resident of Freeland and who recently had a guided tour of WIN’s kitchens and vending machine to see how the system works. The plan in Port Ludlow is for a couple of churches to team together to provide meals for children in the summer.

“We think this sort of education of other areas wanting to replicate our program is one of the best ways we can help children and raise awareness about the importance of consistent good nutrition for children’s development,” Fisher said.

A new local partner to WIN is the Unitarian Universalist Church of Whidbey Island and volunteers there have been making burritos and banana bread for the vending machines and backpacks. They will also make and distribute lunches for the Whidbey Island Garden Tour June 23, a fundraiser for WIN and for which it is taking orders on its website,

WIN’s biggest fundraiser of the year is its Veggisimo garden tour. This year’s tour is Saturday, Aug. 4 at the Clinton home and garden of local artist Georgia Gerber and musician Randy Hudson. And look for information about WIN’s summer feeding program at the parks coming up in the Record.

— Patricia Duff


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