The People of the Central Area: Laura Dewell, Executive Director, Green Plate Special

This post is part of a series of profiles of Central District residents, part of the “People of the Central Area” project developed and written by Madeline Crowley.

LauraDewellPortraitRevision-1About Laura:

Laura works tirelessly to share her years of knowledge from owning and running successful restaurants with lower-income community kids in the pursuit of Food Justice.

What made you choose the Central Area for the Green Plate Special project?

I was looking farther south when an opportunity arose with Marty Liebowitz of the Madrona Company, a family-owned contractor/builder and property owners. I thought it could be a good fit, being on the edge of the Central District but I wondered if Madrona was the demographic I was looking to serve in the first stage of our project. In reality, Madrona K-8 School has the highest rates of subsidized lunches in the city. Roughly 80% of the youth in the school are youth of color and many are financially struggling. So, it was an organic process; and it came to us in a really special way.

The Green Plate Special project teaches kids how to grow and tend food, but also about nutrition.

That’s correct, because 50% of what we do is in the garden and the rest is in the kitchen. The garden now is a temporary site, we’re moving farther south at the end of this year. We planned to build a kitchen in this garden but funding didn’t happen at that point. This kitchen now is in the Madrona Presbyterian Church. Since you don’t see an on-site kitchen, people have the impression it’s a youth garden program or a community garden. It is very much a community garden but our focus is on middle school youth. They get to experience the process of planting through harvest and then going into the kitchen to cook.

You touched on this earlier but why did you focus on the Central Area?

As the Central Area and south of it tend to be families of color, despite Seattle being liberal, we have a huge skew from white and black upper middle class and middle class to lower middle class people struggling financially. The lower middle class has high levels of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. In our community there’s a higher rate starting in elementary school of about 20-30% kids are overweight in the community of color. In the nation we’re about number three in that skew of what people of color are able to access in terms of healthy food, of what they know about nutrition as opposed to what upper middle class families have access to in terms of education and food.

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