In 2003, founder, Tom Iselin enlisted a scrappy, selfless team of volunteers to create a more concentrated solution to hunger in Blaine County.
For a few years, we collected and distributed food to families via community partners on a shoestring budget. Over time, we evolved into a choice-based food pantry headquartered in Bellevue that provides folks a dignified grocery experience.
Nine years, three weekly food distributions, ten full-time staff members, and one million pounds of food later, we had only just begun. Though we were feeding more and more people, the root causes of hunger seemed to be getting deeper. This question led to a thorough investigation of food in Blaine County in 2015: The Community Food Assessment.
From the CFA we learned that while 17% of our community was accessing food from our food pantry, a staggering 35% of Blaine County was food insecure or one crisis away. The report revealed that stigma was the primary barrier preventing people from reaching out for food when they needed it most. At the same time, evidence was mounting that food banks alone won’t solve hunger.
To scrub the stigma from food assistance while addressing hunger upstream, we introduced Bloom Community Farm and Bloom Truck. So began two happy, healthy launch pads for stigma-free, community building programs.
In 2016, we broke ground on Bloom Farm and hit the road with Bloom Truck. By 2017, Bloom Youth Project, Volunteer for Veggies, and a stronger Summer Food Program took flight. These programs complement our traditional food support programs to provide a more comprehensive solution to hunger in Blaine County.
Our dreams were being realized as a movement was taking shape – one where everyone can access healthy food and everyone feels a part of the whole. By the end of 2017, more people than ever or 19% of Blaine County grew, ate, and shared good food through our programs.
In 2020, the rubber hit the road. For years, we had been planning to open a Community Food Center and bring together the best of Bloom — with edible gardens, a next gen food pantry, community kitchen, cafe, and children’s room.
As we prepared to open the doors to this one-of-a-kind feel-good space, the pandemic hit in March and the rest is history. At the onset of the COVID pandemic, our service numbers doubled. By the end of April of 2020, four times as many people as before needed food. Our food pantry quickly went curbside and our team rose to the occasion to provide more food for folks than ever. Thanks to our community stepping up, we were still able to move into Bloom Community Food Center in 2021, albeit with COVID safety measures in place.
Once social distancing and mask mandates lifted, we came together again at our beautiful Bloom campus with street art on the walls, fresh produce in the greenhouse, and lots of good food cooking in the kitchen. In 2022, we were all systems go. Life and color was back in full force and our community turned out to volunteer for veggies, lead cooking classes, and enjoy weekly meals in the cafe.
In our fresh, new space, we turned up the volume on our community organizing efforts. We were continuing to provide food for a record number of people who were up against issues like the affordable housing crisis, high cost of groceries, childcare costs, medical debt, and barriers to a quality education. We knew that in order to end hunger for good, we have to address the reasons folks were coming to us in the first place.
In the summer of 2022, we hired two full-time community organizers committed to building power for the people. Since, they’ve been leading Get out the Vote efforts, petitioned for the Manejando Sin Miedo campaign, advocated for equitable education, healthcare access, immigration justice, and affordable housing, to name a few.
As our story continues, we have so many opportunities for you to get involved. Please explore the rest of our website to learn about how you can help power the movement to end hunger.