CORRECTIONS: This article has been updated to show The Market handles up to 200 customers a day, not a week; the nonprofit opened in 2020, not 2018; and other small inaccuracies. Additionally, Taylor Larsen’s name was mistakenly written “Larson”. We regret the error.
The name of the game is accessibility.
While it’s estimated that one in 10 American households experience food insecurity — that they sometimes lack the resources to always meet everyone’s needs — it’s not always easy to access food services; food banks, like the several operating on the Plateau, are only open some days of the week, at limited hours. Free meal programs can be similarly limited.
This leaves millions of families hungry, and that’s unacceptable, said Stacey Crnich, CEO of The Market (formerly known as the Bonney Lake Food Bank).
“We’re participating right now in a system… that I don’t believe in. I don’t think people should be without food in the United States of America,” she said in a recent interview, a sign reading “Food is a right” lit up behind her. “Yay, capitalism and the industrial food complex. Bravo.”
This is all why The Market is setting up new programs and systems to make it easier for locals, especially those with demanding work schedules or lack transportation options, to receive its food services.
One such program is Project DASH, where DoorDash drivers deliver catered food boxes from The Market to its customers.
Project DASH (DoorDash Acts for Sustainability and Hunger) started in 2018 to both connect food banks to willing donors and customers to their local food banks. The company touts the Project DASH has made more than 2 million deliveries since its inception, providing more than 35 million meals to customers.
Here on the Plateau, DoorDash drivers pick up catered food boxes from The Market and deliver them to customers in a 10-mile radius, from parts of Sumner to Enumclaw and Carbonado. Other communities benefiting from Project DASH include Maple Valley, Black Diamond, Issaquah, and Renton.
“We’re going on our third week of Door Dash, and we’ve gotten 100 deliveries in 30 minutes,” said Taylor Larsen, The Market’s delivery manager. “And we just keep getting better every week.”
To access Project DASH, customers simply have to contact Larsen at 253-303-5909 (this number can both be called or texted) or via email at email@example.com and ask about the program. Customers can then pick from a variety of curated food boxes — protein boxes, dairy boxes, fruit boxes, etc. — to be delivered once a week within a certain time frame.
Though most of the customers participating in the program receive weekly boxes, others can request one-time deliveries, based on their level of need.
DoorDash employees are paid for their time.
“Dashers are paid, just like they would be with any other DoorDash delivery,” a company spokesperson said. “While Project DASH orders are no-tip orders, Dashers are provided multiple orders at a time which allows them to earn about as much over the course of an hour as they would had they done a delivery from one of our merchant partners.”
According to Crnich and Larsen, Project DASH’s continued success relies on participation from nonprofits and other partners in order to receive funding, and they urge other organizations to contact DoorDash to learn how to get involved.
“This is not a secret we want to keep to ourselves,” Larsen said.
Interested organizations can head to doordashimpact.com/community to learn more, or share.hsforms.com/1qqLYjZqOR6Ck50Wp87QfYwcr0bl to fill out an interest form.
In addition to Project DASH, The Market recently began using refrigerated lockers, located outside their venue, so their customers can order food ahead of time and pick it up at their convenience, outside of operating hours.
“We have limited hours here,” Larsen said. “Not all customers can get there during that timeframe.”
At this time, customers would request the same curated food boxes provided with the Project DASH program, though Larsen said she hopes to expand that in the future, where customers can check out The Market’s available food items and select them individually.
“Right now, this is our only location at this time, but we will be having other locations at community centers, potentially fire stations… libraries, schools,” Larsen said. “[Customers] will be able to pick which location is closest to them.”
Customers should contact Larsen via phone, text, or email to place an order, but she hopes to get an online ordering system up and running soon.
ABOUT THE MARKET
Crnich is adamant that The Market is not a food bank.
“I don’t even mess around with the words ‘food bank’ anymore — this isn’t a food bank,” she said. “This is a free grocery store.”
In fact, it’s open layout and shelves of food sometimes confuse people that it is a grocery store, at least up until they realize there’s no cashier to check them out.
And while volunteers help out at The Market, it also has employees like Larsen in order to provide customers with the best service possible.
“We’re actively, daily, putting one step in front of the other to change perspectives and perceptions and narratives and power systems that are in play within something as ridiculous as access to food in the state of Washington,” Crnich continued.
The Market gets much of its food from Emergency Food Network, Feeding America, and Northwest Harvest, but Crnich also writes grants in order to buy local foods; she said she secured $500,000 this year to buy products from Mom’s Micro Garden in Bonney Lake, Markarios Acres in Buckley, Four Season Farm in Orting, and many more.
Doing so, she said, not only provides customers with quality food, but also keeps local food producers in business and reduces the carbon footprint of food delivery.
Since opening in 2020, The Market has grown from serving 25 to 30 families every day to 200 families, and signing up as many as 10 new families per day, Crnich said.
The Market has many needs, from donated food to volunteers, but its biggest need is cold, hard cash — more specifically, reliable monthly donations for everyday operations.
“Right now, we can count on about $8,000 that comes in on a monthly basis,” Crnich said. “Ideally, that should be between $20,000 and $50,000.”
Donations were flush during the pandemic, but “People think the pandemic is over, and the need’s over” Crnich said, pointing to how $144,000 donated in June 2021 fell to just $19,000 this year. “This hurts.”
To donate to The Market, head to bonneylakefoodbank.org.
The Market is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.