Tanika Thompson Bird works as a Food Access Organizer at Got Green, a South Seattle-based nonprofit that organizes to ensure communities of color and low-income communities benefit from the Green Movement. She comes up with creative solutions to make sure healthy foods are available for everyone.
Ainsley Meyer: What issues are you most passionate about?
Tanika Thompson Bird: I’m really passionate about jobs because that’s how I got into advocacy. I had gone through a training program, graduated at the top of my class, had done really well. I’d even done an externship and went to the hospital and worked with all these wonderful people. But when it was time for me to put out my résumé and try to get an interview I could not get one interview. I knew I could do the job, but nobody would give me the opportunity to do it. I was like wondering, am I too old? Or what? So, I know how important it is for people to not only have a job, but to be able to gain some skills and find a better career for themselves. So I’d have to put jobs at the top of my list, although I am becoming rather passionate about food.
AM: How do you see these issues affecting low-income and homeless individuals?
TTB: If you don’t have a job you can’t make any money to pay for the high rent in Seattle these days, unfortunately.
And what we’ve been working on is trying to get access to healthy, affordable food for all people. Even if you do have a job and you are earning good money, because the rent is so high people are having a hard time being able to afford healthy foods. Everybody has the right to eat, right? It’s really important that we make sure all residents in Seattle are able to eat healthy foods.
AM: That brings me to my next question: What sort of work do you do at Got Green? How do you work to make healthy foods more accessible?
TTB: I am a food access organizer. My job is to create access to healthy and affordable foods. We were working on the Fresh Bucks program with the city of Seattle and that program has become so successful they’ve been able to expand it. Then we learned that we were going to lose funding because Trump came into the presidency, and the program could go away.
We realized that City Council and the previous mayor were going to pass a sugary beverage tax. We thought: that would be a perfect way to actually expand the Fresh Bucks program and reach families that are struggling, or don’t get EBT benefits because they make too much money but still can’t afford healthy foods.
AM: What are your thoughts on I-128, the proposed soda tax repeal?
TTB: I kinda thought it would happen, people were telling me that’s what they would try to do if no other cities were able to implement the tax. I think it’s really sad and unfortunate that people are maybe not paying close enough attention to realize that the revenue from this tax is going towards some great programs. The Fresh Bucks program has been able to expand, and we’ve been able to get a lot of food dollars in a lot of peoples’ pockets. And not only that, there’s early education programs. There’s the 13th-year scholarship program where seniors can get their first year of community college paid for.
So the revenue is going back to the community. It’s coming from the community and going right back to the community. That was one of the reasons why we supported it.
AM: I know that Got Green has Fresh Bucks and vouchers for people to get fresh foods. How do you go about getting these?
TTB: Well, just yesterday we had a farmers market tour and cooking demo. I try to do those once a month. You can find the events on Got Green Facebook page. We buy some food, we go into the kitchen, and then we show you how to make a healthy meal with the food we buy at the market. I always issue Fresh Bucks for people to spend while they’re there. So when we have events we usually have Fresh Bucks with us.
We were given vouchers for November and December, I think because the [sugary beverage] tax brought in so much revenue this year. They issued these vouchers for us to give to people to use at Safeway. It’s like $60 per person.
The city also did a big mailing out to some low-income housing projects.
AM: What sort of changes do you hope to see in Seattle in the future?
TTB: In the future I’m really hoping we can do something about the homelessness problem. I see people all the time and I really feel for individuals, especially when the weather is bad like now. Hopefully we can get more housing.
Of course access to healthy and affordable food. And I would like to see people who are trying, to get into better jobs…
I like to see people have opportunities.
Previous Rampant Radials profiles. Read the full Dec. 26 - Jan. 1 issue.
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