Backyard fruit feeds the hungry in Seattle

Fruit trees in Seattle produce thousands of pounds of food each year.  Most of this fruit falls to the ground and rots, as the tress go unnoticed, overgrown and uncared for.

But with the help of volunteers and a nonprofit organization, sacks of apples, plums and pears go into the pantries of local low-income people, helping balance food bank offerings this time of year.

Last summer, City Fruit volunteers and employees picked more than 10,000 lbs of fruit from the backyards of homes throughout the city. About 9,000 lbs of it was donated to food banks around the city. With this year’s harvest underway, volunteers and staffers are hoping to hit the same goals.

When the nonprofit organization began picking fruit three years ago, the goal was to pick fruit that otherwise would go to waste.

“We are trying to remind people that fruit is a healthy part of their diet and it’s a great local food source,” City Fruit President James Rooney said.

Volunteers of America Greenwood Food Bank, one of the food banks that received City Fruit donations last year, says demand is strong, with people asking about when the fruit will be arriving.

With an economy driving more people to use food banks and other emergency food services, fresh fruit is much appreciated, Sydney Pawlak community outreach coordinator for Volunteers of America Greenwood Food Bank said.

Last May, the Volunteers of America Greenwood Food Bankhad more than 4,000 visits from people needing food assistance, an all time record high for that location.

During the summer they expect to get even more people coming into the food bank.

Byline: 
Robert McClure's picture

Cherry Point coal-export port hits two setbacks on environmental front

The controversial proposal for a major coal-export port to be built at Cherry Point near Bellingham hit two big setbacks this week: environmentalists broke off talks with the developer, SSA Marine, which was also caught building a road through forested wetlands without proper permits.

With this news still fresh, we're taking the opportunity to publish the second installment of the package we posted earlier this summer by Western Washington University journalism students who  took an in-depth look at the proposal. 

Briefly, here are this week's developments:

 

 

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Fishing town struggling in wake of tsunami

By Matt Drange

California Watch

 It's been four months since tsunami waves generated by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan ravaged the harbor in Northern California's Crescent City, destroying pilings and sinking 16 boats after ripping them from their docks.

But the diminutive harbor is still a long way from functional, crippling to a local economy dependent on the fishing industry. Tsunami victims, meanwhile, are finding little help in disaster relief, much of it in the form of reimbursements and loans they can’t afford.

Excluding the inmates who reside in Pelican Bay State Prison, Crescent City is home to about 4,200 people. The town already took a significant hit when most of the lumber mills and fish processing facilities were shuttered in the last decade, forcing hundreds to leave in search of jobs. Once home to eight lumber mills and three fish processing plants, Crescent City is down to just one of each.

“In a small community, when you lose 100 jobs, it's a big impact. Maybe five years ago, in the good ol' days, if you will, it wouldn't have been so bad,” said Bill Renfroe, executive director of Crescent City's Tri-Agency Economic Development Authority. “But today, with everybody struggling, it's a serious impact.”

Tsunami surges deposited more than 78,000 cubic yards of sediment in the inner boat basin, making it as shallow as four feet in some areas and effectively shutting out boats longer than 15 feet. The harbor is the largest Dungeness crab exporter on the West Coast. At one time, it had more than 100 fishing vessels; now there are only a handful.

Duwamish neighborhoods are a 'food desert' in foodie Seattle -

Seattle has gained a national reputation as a haven for “foodies” – but there’s a “food desert” in its own back yard, ironically in an area that once helped feed a growing city.

The area near the banks of the Duwamish River south of Seattle is where the founder of the Pike Place Market had his original farm. Today, some yards in that area are so contaminated with dioxins in the dirt, the health department advises residents not to grow their own gardens. It’s a place where waves of tribes and immigrants continue to fish the river as they have for decades, but where PCB’s in the river bed have made resident fish no longer safe to eat.

After a century of industrial use, the lower Duwamish River now runs through one of the largest urban Superfund sites in the country. A recent examination of public health data by InvestigateWest revealed that residents who live in the vicinity face more chronic health problems than people who live in other parts of the county. Data show residents in the Duwamish communities are typically more overweight, and have higher incidence of diabetes and more deaths from heart disease. Life expectancy in the area is five years lower than for other, more affluent parts of King County, likely because of some combination of poverty, pollution, and lifestyle.

And food lies at the intersection of all those problems. Affordable nutrition– or lack of it – is at the heart of many of the health problems facing residents in the region along the Duwamish.

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Port of Seattle won't speed up cleanup of trucks' air pollution

The Port of Seattle got a good look this week at who really likes the agency’s multi-faceted plans to reduce port-related air pollution:  Trucking companies, shipping companies, the national ports lobby, the longshoremen’s union and a regional planning agency.

And the port’s elected governing commission also heard who thinks the port is unforgivably laggardly in reducing pollution, especially from diesel-burning trucks that haul cargo out of the port into neighborhoods that register the highest rate of childhood hospitalizations for asthma in King County. Those critics include environmentalists, the Georgetown Community Council*, the Church Council of Greater Seattle, the Teamsters and three other unions.

“The Port of Seattle has taken timid first steps,” Bang Nguyen of the Community Coalition for Environmental Justice told the Port Commission on Tuesday. “Act now to protect children.”

But the port commissioners did not act. Nguyen and other activists urged the commission to accelerate plans to require that trucks picking up cargo meet the latest federal air-pollution regulations for diesel-fired vehicles.  Instead, the commission will wait a year for recommendations from its staff.

Jim Tutton, vice president of the Washington Trucking Association, said the port’s current plan to require 80 percent of the trucks to have the latest pollution-control systems by Dec. 31, 2015, is good enough.  All the trucks must be compliant by Dec. 31, 2017.

“We greatly appreciate the way the Port of Seattle’s clean truck program has been instituted,” Tutton said. “The industry has been able to adopt the new requirements in a reasonable manner, allowing companies (and) their drivers to continue serving their customers without a disruption… Our compliments to the port.”

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Social media campaign gets new eyes on our work

On June 13th, InvestigateWest launched its first major social media campaign associated with a story. The story, “Breathing Uneasy – The Air Pollution Crisis in South Seattle” was a joint effort by IW’s Robert McClure and Jenny Cunningham of KCTS-9. IW’s objective was to get the story to readers and viewers through social media channels, in addition to publication and broadcast with media partners, which also included Crosscut.com. Here’s a rundown of what we learned.

Much like a more traditional advertising campaign, the effectiveness of a social media campaign is measured by the extent to which organization goals are met.

However, because the campaign for “BreathingUneasy” was not intended to sell a product or gain customers, we look at success a little differently than does traditional business. When evaluating the success of a story campaign, we exchange measures such as unit sales and new customers for metrics like website traffic, connections/followers on social networks, responses to our messages and content, and whether the audience shares the content within their network. An added dimension is whether the report motivates civic participation.

Byline: 
Robert McClure's picture

Should Port of Seattle hasten air-pollution cleanup?

Our recent collaboration with KCTS Channel 9 on worrisome air pollution levels in south Seattle looked hard at the role played by the 1,800 to 2,000 truck trips that do business at the Port of Seattle on an average workday.

Today the Seattle Port Commission deals directly with the air-pollution controversy we covered.  Staff members are scheduled to brief the commission on the agency's air-pollution-reduction programs.

The background: the Port Commission failed on complicated but essentially 3-2 votes in December 2010 to speed up the air-pollution cleanup process and to support federal legislation giving ports more authority to regulate the trucks. Seattle City Council members Nick Licata and Mike O'Brien, along with state Rep. Dave Upthegrove, asked the commission to go the other way. Commissioner Gael Tarleton appears to have been the swing vote.*

But in January of this year the commission, on a motion by Tarleton, agreed 5-0 to ask its staff to look into what might be done to clean up port-related air pollution sooner, citing "an urgent need to address the public health risks of poor air quality caused by expanding container (ship) traffic, the continued strength of cruise ship visits, and the associated growth in port trucking..."

Byline: 
Robert McClure's picture

Should Washington become the king of shipping coal to China?

Have you ever had to wait for a train at, say, Broad Street in Seattle, right by the SAM Sculpture Park? Or anyplace else along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks that hug the coast of Puget Sound?

Imagine roughly doubling the train traffic on that railroad. Imagine further that each of these new trains is a mile and a half long. That’s a lot of waiting at railroad crossings.

But critics of the Gateway Pacific Terminal – the proposed coal-exporting port near Bellingham that would service those very long trains full of coal  – say that’s only the first of many impacts on communities and the environment because of the terminal’s overall purpose: sending up to 48 million tons of coal to China every year.

Topping the list of environmental impacts is climate change. The Chinese would burn a *lot* of coal, the most climate-unfriendly of the major energy sources. Plus there are the greenhouse gases emitted bringing the coal here from the Power River Basin in Montana and Wyoming.  And – oh, yeah –air pollution created in China can find its way to our shores in just a week and a half.

On the other hand, you may have noticed that financially, many of our neighbors are hurting. The proposed coal-exporting terminal west of Ferndale would mean hundreds of jobs – those “family-wage” jobs that are increasingly hard to find in Western Washington.  The naturally deep port at Cherry Point would not need to be dredged, proponents of the terminal point out. And the Powder River coal is low-sulfur, meaning it creates less lung-attacking pollution when burned than the higher-sulfur coal the Chinese might obtain from elsewhere.

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