Friends of Third Place Commons Programs
Friends of Third Place Commons offers a wide variety of activities for children and families. For infants, toddlers, and their adult caregivers, we partner with the Center for Human Services to provide weekly interactive early learning activities. We make our community stage available at no charge for students and teachers from north end and eastside schools to present concerts, dance recitals, and theater events. Friends partners with the King County Library System on special family entertainment events, a weekly writing group for adults, Pizza and Books for young readers, and anime and writing workshops for teenagers.
In 2005, Friends of Third Place Commons responded to community requests by opening the Lake Forest Park Farmers Market. Throughout the economic downturn while other local farmers markets experienced declines in sales , we welcomed more shoppers than ever, as many as 8,000 per week. We welcome community nonprofits and merchants from the Town Center at Lake Forest Park to do outreach in our community tent.
With grants from funders such as 4Culture and Humanities Washington, Friends of Third Place Commons offers special programming to the community, ranging from our first World Music Festival in 2008 to Native American Storytelling in 2011. Every program is free of charge, and is promoted to a wide diversity of participants.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
As sponsors of the Lake Forest Park Farmers Market, Friends of Third Place Commons is committed to increasing the accessibility of fresh, nutritious, and local food for everyone in the community. In 2008, Friends received a venture grant from United Way of King County to develop and test a new food assistance program at the Market. After a successful pilot phase, Friends has received regular funding to help put healthy food on the plates of our neighbors in need.
Market Bucks are $2 coupons that are used to buy food directly from the farmers at the market. They are distributed through partner agencies such as the Shoreline School District, Hopelink, Center for Human Services, and the Shoreline /Lake Forest Park Senior Center. Recipients are already screened, and each agency is aware of their needs and of their ability to travel to the market. With solid infrastructure to support the program, Friends carefully tracks distribution and redemption numbers.
The program emphasizes good nutrition as it increases access to fresh fruits and vegetables for people who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. Because the project is community-based, it helps create or reinforce other safety nets by raising awareness of services offered by our partner agencies. Already a model throughout Washington and beyond, the program has gained national attention. Friends is frequently asked to consult with agencies and other markets interested in food assistance programs.
In 2011, the program was funded by United Way and Church of the Redeemer in Kenmore, and we redeemed over $15,000 worth of Market Bucks during the season. As we begin the 2012, we are seeking new funders so we can continue to make the Lake Forest Park Farmers Market accessible to our hungry neighbors.