Seattle Nonprofits Will Unite Against Childhood Hunger at Conference on Volunteering and Service

Jun 6, 2017
Students at Madrona Elementary School in Seattle have breakfast in their classroom, a tactic recommended by United Way of King County to help make sure students get the nutrition they need to succeed.

During the annual Conference on Volunteering and Service, thousands of nonprofit, government, business and civic leaders gather to discuss the future of volunteerism, and to showcase the true power and impact of putting people at the center of change. And each year, Points of Light organizes a service project that supports the local community and addresses a pressing need. In 2017, the Conference will take place in Seattle – a unique city for Points of Light, with two HandsOn Network affiliates: Seattle Works and United Way of King County.

On June 17, attendees can kick-off their Conference experience by participating in a service project collaboration – “Fuel Up For Kids” – with our local affiliates. United Way’s Fuel Your Future program connects kids to nutritious food year-round, and Seattle Works Day is an annual day of service that supports more than 60 local nonprofits and engages thousands of volunteers. This project is the perfect mashup between our Seattle affiliates and enables Conference attendees to have a direct impact on the local community.

In King County, 1 in 5 kids regularly goes hungry. Many of these children eat free lunch at school; however, many families do not know free lunches are available throughout the summer in many city parks. To raise awareness of these summer programs before school lets out, Conference volunteers will join the United Way and Seattle Works to host a free lunch giveaway and party in a city park.

“It is a perfect example of the way two organizations can come together for the greater good,” said Chloe De Wolf, development and communications manager for Seattle Works.

Volunteers at Marra Farms in Seattle garden during Seattle Works Day 2016.

Founded in 1989, Seattle Works’ main objective is to harness the altruistic and philanthropic tendencies of Seattle’s young adults. Beyond Seattle Works Day, the organization focuses its efforts on generating mutually beneficial relationships between nonprofits and volunteers, promoting a fun and social atmosphere.

Chloe explained that “at our core, we believe that volunteering should be impactful and fun.” To that end, the organization designs volunteer programs with an emphasis on social connection in addition to community service.

Volunteers serve at Heron Habitat Helpers during Seattle Works Day 2016.

Team Works, one of the organization’s signature programs, achieves this outcome. The team-based nonprofit support initiative takes place over a 4-month period, once in the spring and again in the fall, and engages teams of volunteers in four projects organized by Seattle Works and a nonprofit partner. After each project, teams are encouraged to take part in some form of family-friendly social activity – visiting one of Seattle’s many local breweries is a popular option.

Since launching the program in 2010, Seattle Works has engaged 4,054 volunteers through Team Works and has already activated 138 volunteers in 2017.

Like Seattle Works, United Way of King County focuses on making volunteering easy and fun, whether they are organizing an individual project or a company-wide day of service. And with so many local children going without the food they need, many of their events and days of service focus on childhood hunger.

“United Way has been involved in ending childhood hunger since 2009, when we developed a response to the recession,” said Lauren McGowan, senior director of ending homelessness and poverty for United Way of King County. “Today our Fuel Your Future program is a key strategy in our work to make sure families are financially stable.”

The Fuel Your Future program is a major voice for advocacy in the region, both helping schools arrange the necessary staffing and resources to provide children with food, and raising awareness of the hunger initiatives and resources available to local schools and families.

Seattle Sounders’ players visit students from the Tukwila School District to congratulate them on winning the Breakfast Challenge.

With the help of corporate partners, United Way provides incentives for King County schools to deliver quality nutrition to their students. One example is the Breakfast Challenge, which operates with the support of the Seattle Sounders, a professional soccer team. The program creates friendly competition between school districts, encouraging them to feed more children by reducing barriers – like fighting the stigma that surrounds accepting free meals, or reminding parents to get their children to school on time. Schools can also compete based on the availability and thoroughness of their nutrition education programs. Winners receive a trophy and a special visit from the Sounders.

Since the initiative started in the fall of 2015, 1,000 additional students are eating breakfast every day, 3,000 more students are getting nutrition education, and an additional 1,000 students are eating meals after school. Other events, like the Summer Food Invasion program, where families come to eat, partake in sports activities and literacy programming, and learn more about Fuel Your Future, help increase the program’s reach and impact in the community.

Both organizations are excited about the potential impact that their collaboration will have on hunger and the overall welfare of the greater King County region.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Seattle Works and Points of Light to launch our 2017 Summer Food Invasion campaign,” Lauren said of the upcoming Conference service project collaboration. “This partnership will help raise awareness about the issue of summer hunger and that free meals are available all summer long.”

Join us at the 2017 Conference on Volunteering and Service and add Seattle Works Day to your conference registration agenda.

BONUS: Watch a recent news feature on Seattle Works and the upcoming Seattle Works Day.

Robert Montgomery