Local Food Summit Proves What’s Good for the Planet Is Good for the Palate
With four goals and more than 30 actions, Sustainable Thurston planted seeds to grow our local food systems’ economic vitality, environmental stewardship, and community coordination.
Three years after TRPC adopted the plan, our region is measuring progress, planning next steps — and taking time to taste what we’ve reaped and sown, of course.
About 175 people packed a South Puget Sound Community College building on Oct. 20 for the Local Flavors Tasting Salon, which featured bites from local food producers and artisans, and sips of local craft beer, cider, wine, and spirits. Attendees of the Friday evening event knew they were in for a treat when they moved straight from the registration table to samples of Sofie’s Scoops gelato, made from Tenino-based Tunawerth creamery milk. As people wandered through the tables of delectable nibbles, listening to the live music, they talked of smoked salmon and duck egg quiche, kombucha, beet salad, the lovely cheese and honeycomb display, and many variations of “I didn’t know we had so many unique and delicious culinary treasures in this area.”
Sponsoring the summit was the South Sound Food Systems Network, which grew from Sustainable Thurston’s ad hoc Local Food Systems Team. In 2016, the Network merged with the Thurston Thrives Food Action Team and the Thurston Asset Building Coalition Food Hub to better align efforts within Thurston and surrounding counties.
The Network’s mission — to grow a vibrant local food economy, ensure broad access to healthy foods, and steward South Sound’s environment — was exemplified in both the Friday Tasting event and the all-day Saturday Food Summit.
Centered by more locally sourced food, prepared by the college’s culinary students, the Saturday event provided an array of breakout sessions to fit many tastes: Agricultural infrastructure and help for new farmers and food businesses; celebrating local food varieties; food waste; discovering the flavor palate; food justice and injustice; bees; soil science; medicinal properties of wild plants; fermenting; food stories; and sustainable meat. Over 240 attendees also discussed strategies for keeping the momentum and energy flowing.
The organizers branded nearly half of the sessions as “kid-friendly,” with activities for children and adults. This goal of inclusivity and a “place for all at this table” was the dream of Network Co-Chairperson and organizer Katie Rains, who also serves as GRuB’s executive director.
“I wanted this to be open to everyone, with a broad mix of ages, incomes, and cultures,” she explained. “Thanks to generous community contributions, we provided scholarships, and our partners helped us get the word out.”
The successful achievement of her goal played out in comments from participants: “It was so good to meet people who can help,” and “I can’t remember the last time someone asked me what I think.”
Hungry to contribute? Network Co-Chairperson Aslan Meade urges folks to attend the Network’s monthly meetings. “If you grow, prepare, sell, or eat food, please join us,” Meade added.
Sustainable Thurston goals related to local food systems:
[Goal F-1] Coordinate local food planning efforts to create a socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable regional system.
[Goal F-2] Enhance the economic viability of the local food system.
[Goal F-3] Ensure universal access to secure, nutritious, and affordable food in the Thurston Region.
[Goal F-4] Enhance public education and outreach related to the local food system.
The Thurston Regional Planning Council is bolstering its online tools to reduce commute trips — which helps save workers time and money while reducing automobile pollution and congestion.
TRPC administers the Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) program for Thurston County worksites that are affected by Washington’s CTR Law. The law affects about 200 worksites, including all state government agencies in the urban growth areas of Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater.
Each CTR worksite has an Employee Transportation Coordinator (ETC) who is responsible for implementing CTR at the worksite. TRPC offers CTR “Basic Training” for new ETCs, and holds quarterly networking sessions — both of which are well attended. New web tools are enhancing TRPC’s work.
In 2017, TRPC rebranded its ThurstonCommutes.org website. The website provides ETCs with basic information on a wide variety of CTR topics, from meeting requirements to stay compliant with the law, such as submitting annual reports and the biennial CTR survey of employees, to promoting CTR at the worksite through subsidies and incentives, promotions, CTR supportive amenities, and other means. New online resources include:
An overview of CTR basics, both for ETCs who are awaiting Basic Training and for veteran ETCs needing a refresher
A calendar for upcoming CTR events, such as Networking Sessions and Basic Training, including registration links
CTR survey results, annual reports, and survey setup forms
An online directory of worksites and ETC contact information
Links to the online Thurston County Bicycle Map, current CTR promotions, information on the STAR pass and SAFE Ride programs (free bus pass and emergency ride home programs for state employees), and many other CTR resources
A display materials page with downloadable CTR brochures and posters
A centralized process for ordering printed materials through TRPC
Also in 2017, TRPC redesigned and updated its popular ThurstonHereToThere.org website, which connects people to travel resources available throughout the Thurston Region and beyond (buses, carpools, trains, and more). The updated website features pages geared toward various community groups, including a page for State employees.
Collectively, the online and in-person engagement activities are helping the Thurston Region achieve several Sustainable Thurston goals, including, reducing transportation congestion and environmental impacts [Goal T-2], as well as reducing the region’s carbon footprint [Goal E-2] and air pollution [Goal E-1].