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Helping Washington communities feed hungry families, Extension wins national award

An Extension CoolPup trailer parked at a busy food pantry in Ferry County.
In Northeastern Washington, Extension is partnering with communities to help solve hunger challenges through farm to food bank initiatives.

Hunger is increasing in Washington. Statewide, the latest statistics show that the number of hungry families is growing, with more than 15 percent of households struggling to find enough nutritious, healthy food.

In many of Washington’s highest areas of need, Washington State University Extension helps families and communities overcome hunger through education and local partnerships. Working as part of the Northeast Washington Hunger Coalition in Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties, and with the Peninsula Food Coalition in western Washington, Extension helps build healthy, equitable and resilient community food systems.

Now, a team of Extension professionals working on these projects have been honored by the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (NACDEP) for this life-changing work.

Earning NACDEP’s Cross-Program Team Award, Debra Hansen, Stevens County Extension director; Clea Rome, Clallam County Extension director; Rebecca Sero, Extension statewide Evaluation Specialist; Laura Ryser, Kitsap Extension community and economic development specialist; Laura Lewis, WSU Food Systems Initiative director; Nils Johnson, Stevens County-based Extension coordinator for agriculture and farm systems; Shannon Rowley, Extension Coordinator for SNAP-ED and 4-H; and Karlena Brailey, Extension nutrition educator, were recognized for their Extension work integrating community resources with economic development.

A participant brings a case of tomatoes out of a CoolPup trailer.
Refrigerated trailers are helping Extension partners bring healthy food from farms to hungry communities.

Projects delivered access to nutrition

On the east side of the state, Extension worked as part of the Northeast Washington Hunger Coalition, designing resources and tools to help communities feed themselves. Hansen chaired the Coalition, marshalling food banks, community food system partners, and farmers to develop and support colleague Nils Johnson’s Farm to Food Pantry and Schools Program, a pilot effort serving Stevens, Ferry and north Pend Oreille counties.

In Northwest Washington, Extension has taken a similar approach, collaborating on a regional food systems program across Clallam, Jefferson and Kitsap counties. Nutrition educator Karlena Brailey chairs the Peninsula Food Coalition, a network of food banks, tribes, non-profits and economic development agencies that works to increase access and nutrition education across the counties.

Johnson designed a micro-delivery system supporting a set of refrigerated “CoolPup” trailers, helping deliver fresh produce at the rural scale where it’s most needed. Thanks to a new grant, the Food Coalition has purchased a trailer to help local families.

“Congratulations to everyone who contributed to this effort, helping families in Clallam and Stevens Counties gain knowledge, ability and resources for real food security,” said Hansen, the project leader. “With this award, we’re inspired to do more, honing our methods, building on WSU research and linking with more partners to beat hunger in Washington.”

NACDEP helps Extension professionals across the country to network, exchange ideas, and advance community development knowledge, skills and projects. Each year, the association recognizes outstanding work being done in this arena at regional and national levels.

  • Learn more about WSU Extension’s work to improve nutrition and food security across 39 counties and in tribal communities at the Extension website.

Media Contacts

Debra Hansen, Stevens County Extension director, (509) 684-2588