In 2015, World Relief Seattle hosted conversations with refugees and immigrants in South King County to help give direction to an organization-wide strategic planning process. In response to the question "what do you need?", the answer, overwhelmingly, was "community". While digging into this idea through listening sessions and panels, we uncovered a common desire for space to grow culturally appropriate food, build relationships, and connect with the soil in their new home.
Tahmina Martelly, Resiliency Programs Manager at World Relief Seattle, developed the idea of the Paradise Parking Plots Community Garden. Many areas throughout South King County fall within the USDA classification of a food desert (an area where more than a third of the population has no car and is more than a mile from a grocery store), and a community garden was an innovative solution. Refugee and immigrant populations can be disproportionately affected by food deserts due to the location of affordable housing and lack of transportation. Affordable housing often comes in the form of apartment complexes, limiting access to land to grow affordable produce. Many immigrants also live in multifamily households that rely on a single income, making it difficult to purchase food that is healthy and familiar.
Hillside Church, centrally located on transit lines within easy access for much of Kent's immigrant community, generously donated a 1-acre, under-used, and often-flooded parking lot for World Relief staff and volunteers to plant roots. From 2016-2017, and with the help of over 1500 volunteers, Paradise Parking Plots Community Garden quickly became a reality.
Listening to the community is at the core of Paradise Parking Plots. The future of the garden continues to be shaped by gardeners, the garden advisory council, neighbors, members of Hillside Church, representatives from the city and county, foundation partners, sustainability and project management interns, and World Relief Seattle staff and volunteers.
A difference of 2 years: 2016-2018