In this edition: 

Welcome to July Root Causes

By Shannon Martsolf

Your DEI communications committee is excited to share our July DEI newsletter.  We’ve pulled together some great content including new monthly features. “Breaking Bread” invites staff members to share a recipe and story highlighting the importance food often plays in our lives; “Understanding the Terms” explores words and phrases heard in the diversity, equity, and inclusion world to help deepen our knowledge and familiarity with the concepts. 

We look forward to evolving and growing this engagement tool and hope to be a resource and information hub to all Food Lifeline staff members.  If you have ideas, feedback, or wish to contribute – please reach out to any member of your DEI communications committee team.

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DEI-Centered New Agency Partner Process 

By Pamela Lim, Victoria Lincourt, and Dominique Sagiao, and Tiffani Kaech
The Agency Relations team recently completed a new agency review process and welcomed 25 new partners to our network. We’d like to share our updated approach that centers Food Lifeline’s equity, diversity, and inclusion values.

To determine which agencies to partner with, we used four categories to understand an applicant’s work: community need, community outreach, guest dignity and accessibility, and racial equity. We were transparent with applicants about Food Lifeline’s mission, and our efforts to partner with agencies who are working on addressing racial and social injustices in the food system.

During the review process, we asked about several components of an applicant’s service based on the four categories, including:
  • Community Need 
    • Guiding Question: Does this agency serve a community that Food Lifeline doesn’t currently support? 
    • We considered the number of households/individuals an agency serves, its geographic location, and whether the agency serves a majority Black, Indigenous, People of Color community. This area is related to community outreach because we also considered whether an agency is actively working to welcome, serve, and benefit the community. For example, an agency may collaborate with local partners, collect word-of-mouth feedback, or advertise through community centers or businesses. 
  • Community Outreach 
    • Guiding Question: Does this agency make an effort to forge strong connections with the community, do outreach work, and advertise its services? 
    • This area is related to racial equity because want to make sure that our agency partners acknowledge and serve communities of color, even if they make up a minority of the region’s population. We considered the agency’s availability of culturally appropriate food options, outreach efforts, partnership with other organizations, knowledge of the community, and whether it has a variety of programming to fit the community’s needs. 
  • Guest Dignity and Accessibility 
    • Guiding Question: Is this agency easily accessible to guests, and does the agency provide a dignified guest experience? 
    • We considered whether the agency has barriers to entry such as requiring photo ID or proof of address. We also considered the agency’s hours and days of operation, whether translation or interpretation services are available, and how guests receive food from the agency. This area also ties into racial equity because any barriers to accessibility and guest dignity disproportionately affect communities of color. 
  • Racial Equity Work 
    • Guiding Question: Does this agency actively work to address racial inequities in the food system through internal or external programming, or through dedicated community outreach? 
    • Our mission at Food Lifeline is to feed people experiencing hunger today and to work to end hunger for tomorrow. Ending hunger for tomorrow requires us to address racial inequities and social injustice in the food system. While we appreciate when agencies are committed to serving all guests who come through their doors, we chose to prioritize partners that are actively working to address these systemic issues. 
The team prepared for DEI conversations with each applicant knowing that it could potentially be difficult. We established a department practice of actively engaging with agencies on racial equity concerns, which include negative effects of the “color blind” approach to race, problematic and outdated terminology, guest dignity and identification requirement concerns, which present challenges especially for undocumented guests. We also emphasized the difference between equity and equality.
The result of the agency review process is many new agency partners that are committed to centering their communities and addressing racial and social injustices in the food system. Some of the new BIPOC-led and BIPOC-serving agencies are:
  • Pacific Islander Community Association 
  • Lutheran Community Services NW – supports immigrant populations 
  • West African Community Council 
  • Eritrean Association 
  • Friends of the Children Seattle – supports at-risk youth from kindergarten to 18 
  • Prison Scholar Fund – serves system-impacted and previously incarcerated folks 

For a full list of new agency partners, click here

Special thanks to Pamela Lim, Victoria Lincourt, and Dominique Sagiao for leading this new process with support from Prenz Sa-Ngoun, Bo Johnson, Christine Givens, Sandra Largaespada, Matt Svilar, and Leah Rapalee.

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Many Lives, One Journey Part 2

By Armando (Mando) Ramos

People like to complain about the Seattle metro area. While no place is perfect, I find myself to be grateful for it. In Tallahassee FL I had to live off $7.25 an hour at a part time job slinging sandwiches. The argument is that you don’t stick to a job like that for too long because it’s entry level. Yet people are still forced to work multiple of these thankless jobs in parts of the country that refuse to understand what a living wage is. In some parts of this country it’s considered normal to openly express Homophobic and Anti-Islamic sentiment. In some parts of this country people will still call a full-grown black man “boy”. In those parts of the country you can pass yourself off as an anti-racist by just avoiding ethnic slurs and throwing a coexist bumper sticker on your back bumper. Here in Seattle you must do more because it’s almost in vogue to be a social progressive. Working here was a starting point for acquiring the tools to do that extra work. However, sometimes those tools can add dimensions of pain to our experiences.

This time last year I could see the beginnings of a CPOD line that went around the block. Which did not bode well for the employment rate.  There was no vaccine in sight, and we were at peak isolation. All of us were filled with trepidation. Personally, I was recovering from the news that my nephew had been murdered by Police in Indianapolis and that my uncle got himself back in prison. I used the information I learned here to unpack a lot of what I was feeling. It was only the starting point for the hard work of facing bias and bigotry in the world. However, the true test is using those tools to face those demons that lie within. Kahlil Gibran writes, “Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.” One day as I was building orders, I received the news that my imprisoned uncle died of a seizure in his prison cell. My sister sent me the article describing his passing. There were no soft words to be said. It ended with a list of his crimes and none of the love we bore him. It was like reading the horrible things they highlighted about my nephew. When my nephew passed pro police social media creators posted the most incriminating images of him; not images of family gatherings and school events but images from times in his life when he was on a bad path.

In the depth of that quagmire I received a call from my brother. He was getting married in Puerto Rico. We were estranged so I decided I’d risk everything and go see him. When I arrived, I noticed that wherever I went people didn’t seem to be divided by race. Even my Afro-Latina niece and her Black traveling companions felt treated well. Until they were inevitably accused of stealing. When I returned, I felt conflicted. Were “Gringoes” bringing colorism to the island? Had the island always been racist? Was I going to have to start checking the white box on job applications? It seemed that colorist notions that plague this nation infiltrated my enchanted perception of “La Isla del Encanto”.

I’ll never check the white box, but I wish I had an answer to the rest of the questions. In all frankness the answers don’t entirely matter. What matters is the future. Puerto Rico, America even the world has a history of oppressing the marginalized and exploiting the vulnerable but the work we do here for diversity, equity and inclusion isn’t idle labor. It’s an investment in the future. Seeds are planted with the intent that they will grow. Ask yourself the hard questions to “break the shell of your understanding.” Use that new understanding to grow an equitable future.

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Feed the People

By Gregory Whiting

Come check out what they have in store for you!
For over a year, Feed The People founder and leader Chef Tarik Abdullah has been operating the Feed The People Community Kitchen program providing no-cost, fresh prepared meals to anyone in need from their kitchen in the Central District. As a fiscally sponsored project of Coyote Central, they have been able to support this work through grants and generous donations, and they have been able to expand the reach of FTP throughout the city.

Now, with their new website, they are providing more opportunities for you to join the Feed The People family. Come visit them so you can:
  • Get the newest FTP merch (hoodies, aprons, totes, and more!)
  • Sign up for a volunteer shift with the FTP Community Kitchen program
  • Learn about ways you can support FTP

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Breaking Bread with Samantha Franklin

By Craig Gibson and Samantha Franklin

As part of our effort to build community within Food Lifeline we are adding a recipe section to our Root Causes Newsletter. Food is a primary way many folks connect with one another and has different significance for all those who prepare and eat it. This recipe can be something timely based off the season or upcoming holiday, or it can be a go-to staple that’s great year-round. We want to invite you to share one of your favorite recipes as a submission for our readers to take home with them. To start us off, Samantha Franklin has submitted a family favorite that her granddaughters (pictured above) have already grown to love. 


Growing up, my mother made the best pecan pie. She made it for almost all family gatherings. She was a stickler for making things from scratch that were imbedded in her memory, a pinch of this and a dash of that. I never saw her follow a recipe. However, I learned that the recipe on the Karo syrup bottle taste just like hers. Whenever I see a pecan pie or make one, it reminds me of her. 😊

Pecan pie (Borrowed from Karo Syrup)


  • 1 cup Karo light or dark corn syrup
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon Spice Islands Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans
  • 1 (9-inch) unbaked or frozen deep-dish pie crust


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a mixing bowl, mix corn syrup, eggs, sugar, butter, and vanilla using a spoon. Stir in pecans. Pour filling into pie crust.
  3. Bake on center rack of oven until center reaches 200°F and springs back when tapped lightly, about 55 to 70 minutes.
 If you’re interested in submitting a recipe or have questions please email Craig Gibson directly. In general we would like both the recipe and a little backstory of the dish. This could be it’s origin, when you usually cook it, why it’s important to you, etc. And of course a picture (if possible!)
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From the DEI Director’s Desk

By Gregory Whiting

PRIDE is Everlasting
While Pride month ended in June, we at Food Lifeline want to celebrate important people and communities throughout the year.  That is why I look at the spirit of Pride month as being everlasting.  While my contributions to our newsletter will be a bit smaller, I want to highlight that PRIDE month is a very important holiday to me and should certainly exist beyond the timed confines of the month of June.  Below are some links to important people and ideas that have influenced me respect and admire the people of the communities celebrated during this time and the circumstances of their lives.

Access and Power
Being a food bank, we often take the lens of looking at communities and asking ourselves “how are their needs related to the world of food banking” and then “what is our role in helping out?”.  For Food Lifeline, it might not always be clear what the specific needs and circumstances are of communities as they encounter our food bank.  Sometimes we do not fully understand the unique ways LGBTQ people are susceptible to poverty and food insecurity specifically.  That said, even the term LGBTQ(IA) is not exhaustive as there are many different worlds of experience that are exploited and excluded in our heteronormative and cis-gender centric society. This article on Investopedia succinctly lays out how oppression plays out in the financial sphere for people oppressed by heteronormative rules and practices.  It is not exhaustive but provides clear examples of how in the United States people who do not conform to rigidly prescribed gender and relationship norms are exploited and excluded. 

Medical history
The Gay Blood Ban – For people who like to learn through storytelling, this graphic novel illustrates how policies that impact public health have been used to punish and exclude gay men at the expensive of our entire society.  It’s a free comic and a short read through the link provided here.  Enjoy!

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Meet Your Co-Chair: Amanda Reeves

Hi! My name is Amanda Reeves, the Advocacy Coordinator at Food Lifeline. I am also currently one of the sitting DEI Communication Sub-committee leaders. I joined Food Lifeline back in February 2017 as Grocery Rescue Rep., but my passion for a deeper connection with this work lead me to be more involved in the advocacy and policy side of the work. Then came the opportunity to develop a closer relationship with the diversity, equity, and inclusion work. This work is important for me to be involved in personally as a bi-racial woman and as someone who is helping to advocate for others to have a better understanding and connection. Both advocacy and DEI allow me to engage deeper with others, listen to understand, and build knowledge on what I am may not know or understand.

If you would like to be a guest in this newsletter and share your story, please reach out to me using my email!
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DEI Sub-Committee Updates

Staff Engagement Committee by Imyli Groce
The staff engagement committee is dissecting the results of the all staff equity survey to share out with our teams and to help inform our work.  We are also busy building our work plan with timelines and launching those projects.

Curriculum Committee by Pamela Lim
We are developing curriculum for several Equity Concepts, which cover topics including intersectionality, conflict management, and Food Lifeline’s equity filter. For each Equity Concepts, we are putting together educational resources, learning goals, and suggested activities to engage in.
Steering Committee by Gregory Whiting
The next Equity Team meeting is August 5th at 12pm. Steering Committee meetings are the 4th Wednesday of the month at 11am.
Communication Committee by Shannon Martsolf
The communication committee is expanding our work plan to explore options for additional ways to deliver the staff DEI newsletter, including translations, and print versions.  We are considering ways to encourage engagement and content creation by a variety of staff members to lift up diverse voices and perspectives. We are working in collaboration with the Marketing and Communications team to act as a resource for content to share with our external audiences using our communications channels, and to expand and enhance the newly published equity section of the Food Lifeline website.
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Affinity Group Updates

Black Indigenous and People of Color Groups
Alicya Pearson
Black Indigenous and People of Color meetings are every other Thursday at 10-11am. These meetings are drop-in/drop-out, so you are welcome to join at any point during the meeting or leave early.
As a reminder - though the title Black Indigenous and People of Color sounds specific, this space is also for people who identify as biracial, white-passing, and multiracial.  We are also pleased to announce that we have officially moved away from using the BIPOC acronym in favor of spelling out each term.  The acronym enables groups of people to look past the community and doesn’t create the necessary visibility.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to Alicya, Manny, and/or Gregory.

White Affinity Group
Gregory Whiting
The White Affinity group will meet bi-monthly (every other week) beginning on Wednesday, 08/21/2019. Meetings will be held in the Engagement Room from noon until 1 PM, unless otherwise specified. Four of your colleagues will co-facilitate the group. They will be supported by Gregory and the CEI consultants. The role of the co-facilitators will be to create a welcoming environment for the White participants to have conversations on race and equity so all can continue as learners in the space. The co-facilitators also identify as learners in DEI work.  
How Did our Affinity Groups Evolve:
By Gregory Whiting
For Food Lifeline, I looked up several different links with information on how to form a racial affinity group and began the process of forming one for our organization based on the conversations I was having with staff and the learning experiences we were having in our equity journey.  The support of CEI made it clear that this would be an essential addition to our organization’s structure as we seek to create and maintain a healthy environment for our work and collective growth process.  Racial affinity groups are incredibly important for racialized people, those who are excluded and/or exploited in society based on racial hierarchies.  We have grown to the point of our white staff group going from “affinity” to “accountability” in their title to denote their role in this process.  Independent of my involvement, women and non-binary staff in operations has developed as an affinity group space and there has been encouragement from staff for multiracial and other racial demographic specific groups to be created.  For some people, the idea of separating people by race to work against racism feels contradictory, but the difference in this case is that the participation is voluntary and the engagement in these groups are designed around learning, equity, and community needs that are specific to those who have chosen to assemble.
As Food Lifeline continues its’ journey in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion the Equity Team created racial affinity groups as a resource for all staff

What is an affinity group? An affinity group brings together people who have something in common (ex. ability, age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or other trait). There are although several definitions of affinity groups or racial caucuses.  This embedded link will give you plenty of expanded content to explore. Although members of the group may share a common identity, it does not mean that everyone in that group has had the same experiences. This is a space for reflection, dialogue, and growth.

The goal of affinity groups: Facilitate positive identity exploration and development towards the larger goal of creating an inclusive and thriving working environment. 
Food Lifeline has two racial affinity groups:
  • BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Affinity
  • White Affinity
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Become a Contributor

Everyone has a great story to tell.  Are you interested in being a contributor to Root Causes? Through a variety of mediums – writing, being interviewed, on video, the communications subcommittee wants to hear from you.  Contact Amanda or Shannon to learn more.
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