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Kendall resident Katie Chugg is the recipient of the 2024 Washington State Volunteer Service Award

Submitted by Serve Washington

Serve Washington has selected Katie Chugg as the recipient of the 2024 Washington State Volunteer Service Award for the Northwest Region of Washington.

The Northwest region includes Whatcom, Skagit, San Juan and Island counties. The purpose of these awards is to honor the many acts of kindness that individuals, families, service groups and organizations perform in communities across Washington State. In 2023, a total of 14 awards were presented to individuals and groups across the state for community service and volunteerism.

“We believe volunteerism fosters connections across races, cultures, beliefs, backgrounds and experiences,” said Trish Almond, interim director of Serve Washington. “We also believe that national service, volunteerism and community engagement are essential to achieving equality, strengthening communities and improving lives. With these awards, we want to recognize individuals and groups that reflect the diversity of our state for their contributions to effectively address issues facing their communities.”

Chugg is a member of AmeriCorps and serves as a food educator at Acme and Kendall elementary schools through Common Threads Farm. Chugg is being recognized for her services to help bridge the gaps in access to healthy food in East Whatcom County.

The USDA has designated East Whatcom County as a food desert due to limited access to grocery stores and high poverty rates. According to the USDA, people living in food deserts are more likely to experience health problems due to a lack of access to healthy food and health resources.

According to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, approximately 65% ​​of students attending Acme Elementary come from low-income households. The rate is higher at Kendall Elementary, 87%.

Food educators like Chugg lead programs in schools where students learn to grow and cook produce in the school’s on-site gardens. Chugg works with students to help maintain school gardens. Much of the food produced in the gardens is taken home with students or taken to the Foothills Food Bank in Maple Falls. Chugg coordinates the distribution of garden products between the schools and the food bank.

Chugg, 46, has lived in Kendall for more than two decades. She has personally seen the consequences of inadequate access to fresh food in her community and has a connection with Common Threads Farnm. She helped write a grant for Common Threads Farm to build the first garden at Kendall Elementary 15 years ago, when her daughter was a student there.

Chugg says her desire to serve her community comes from her mother. She remembers her mother having a passion for helping at-risk youth or “just giving $5 to someone she thought needed help.” I had such a great role model and serving your community and being intentional about where you are was kind of passed on.

Chugg has also led efforts to make food education accessible outside of school hours. She led a series of special events and food education camps for children this summer. She created and organized a series of family cooking evenings to engage parents and students in cooking, sharing a meal together and participating in conversations. Chugg pointed out that parts of rural Whatcom County still don’t have access to affordable high-speed internet, so she took it upon herself to personally deliver flyers and other event materials to community gathering places to reach more households.

In addition, Chugg co-authored a letter of support for an application by the Washington State Department of Health to designate eastern Whatcom County as a “Health Equity Zone.” Health Equity Zones will receive $200,000 annually for at least two years to help community leaders identify health priorities and develop community action plans.

“Katie’s consistent building of relationships within the community has been another factor leading to the success of her programs. Families and students have said they show up because they are looking forward to seeing Katie,” said Emily Hie, AmeriCorps program director at Common Threads Farm. . “Katie does an excellent job of modeling an unparalleled commitment to service, while also balancing that with self-care and resilience.”

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