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Providing Inclusive Foods Integral Mission for WA Food Pantries

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Thursday, March 30, 2023   

Food assistance is integral for families - but it's also important that the food available makes sense culturally.

The American Heart Association has partnered with food banks and pantries across Washington state to ensure they're able to provide culturally relevant meals. One of those organizations is Restoration Community Impact, based in the Tri-Cities.

Marlando Sparks and his wife Stephanie founded the organization. Along with delivering food boxes, Sparks said his wife created the Restoration market where people can come in and select food.

"She and our team services probably over 150 families every day," said Sparks, "and these families are Hispanic, these families are Russian, these families are Arabic, these families are Somali. They come from all different walks of life."

Sparks said Restoration Community Impact delivers more than 3,600 culturally relevant food boxes to the region as well.

His organization also works with people outside of food services, including victims of domestic violence and people re-entering society from correctional and substance-abuse facilities.

Cherish Hart - vice president for community impact with the American Heart Association Puget Sound - said people of color suffer from disproportionately high rates of food insecurity in the U.S, including in Washington.

She said providing culturally relevant food can help break through some of these inequities.

"People want food that is really responsive to their needs, and they want things that they know how to cook and to use," said Hart, "not just a random bag of food that may not be sustainable for their family."

Stephanie Sparks said people in the community are grateful for the services her organization provides.

"We shed tears daily with people just hugging us," she said, "and just giving people hope and just trying to be a blessing to others and letting them know that we're all in this together and there are people who truly care."



Disclosure: American Heart Association Western States Region contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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