New Highline College program aims to combat South King County’s Food Desert
Improving access to healthy food for south King County residents is one goal of Highline College’s new Urban Agriculture/Food Security project, which was recently awarded a two-year, $80,000 grant from the King Conservation District (KCD) Regional Food System program.
Some grant funds will be used for scholarships for low-income prospective students. The scholarships will allow students to begin classes right away, instead of waiting for financial aid awards, which can take up to three months.
“Some areas of south King County offer little access to wholesome food or qualify as food deserts,” said Raegan Copeland, a Highline faculty member who led the effort in Highline’s new project. “Through our program, students will learn how to grow organic food even in tight spaces. The food can supplement their own diets and give them a way to earn money through their own food-related businesses.”
Food deserts exist where residents do not have convenient access to healthy food—especially fruits and vegetables—in their communities.
With the new grant, Highline will recruit participants from the area’s immigrant and refugee communities. For those learning English, support will be available in each class. Approximately 7,000 students attend Highline each quarter for English As a Second Language (ESL) instruction.
The grant will also allow the college to expand its Urban Agriculture certificate program. The 19-credit program consists of seven courses covering topics such as designing and preparing small-scale urban plots, using plant-based foods as medicine and developing business opportunities. It began in spring 2014 with the creation of the college’s campus garden.
Students can begin the 9-month certificate program during winter quarter. Classes will begin January 11, 2016.
The college’s 80-acre campus provides plenty of space for demonstrating and practicing urban agriculture, agroforestry and edible landscaping. Through these efforts, Highline will promote deeper understanding of and support for community-wide food security.
The total cost of Highline’s two-year project is $194,000. The college is funding the balance of the project, which it expects to become self-sustaining through tuition revenue.
Highline’s grant is one of nine awarded by the KCD, which supports projects that strengthen the local food economy. The nine grants, totaling $663,878, were the first award of its kind from the agency. Most cities in King County and all of unincorporated King County are members of the KCD.
For students who do not qualify for scholarships because they live in areas outside of the KCD boundaries, such as Federal Way, the college will help find other sources to fund their education based on their eligibility.
Several college departments and programs have collaborated to develop and run the Urban Agriculture program, including Achieve, Art, Biology, Business, Continuing Education, Economics, ESL, Facilities, Nutrition and StartZone, which provides entrepreneurship support.
Details about the Urban Agriculture certificate program and classes are available at ce.highline.edu.