May 14, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 20

News

Environmental justice is on the menu at Central District’s new farm-to-table café

By Aaron Burkhalter , Staff Reporter

Rev. Robert Jeffrey Sr. stands in front of the G.R.E.A.N. House Coffee & Café located on 21st Avenue, in Seattle’s Central District.

Photos by Sophie Bonomi

George Supang, 32, prepares a BLT for a customer at the G.R.E.A.N. House Coffee & Café. The café’s vegetables are grown at the nonprofit’s Clean Greens Farm & Market.

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When Rev. Robert Jeffrey Sr. was hospitalized for complications related to diverticulitis, an intestinal disease he believes was brought on by too much processed food, he realized that food needed to be a part of his ministry.

“Food is literally killing people,” Jeffrey said.

Food, he realized, could also be a way to connect poor communities to issues of economic justice and environmental activism. So in 2007, Jeffrey, executive director of Black Dollar Days and pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, started Clean Greens Farm & Market, the 22-acre vegetable farm in Duvall provides produce for two markets in the Central District and pre-ordered boxes for community supported agriculture (CSA).

The organization grew out of Black Dollar Days, a 501(c)3 that formed in 1989 to support African American-owned businesses. The organization still produces a business directory, but Clean Greens has become the flagship program, using the largest portion of the organization’s annual $175,000 budget, said Lottie Cross, chief operating officer of Black Dollar Days and director of the Clean Greens Farm & Market.

Clean Greens’ mission is to provide healthy food to people in the Central District, support green jobs and farming opportunities for African-American residents and educate people about environmental issues and climate change.

The farm, which produces organic spinach, onions, beans, leeks, tomatoes, pumpkins, kale and other veggies, costs $150,000 a year to operate, Jeffrey said, and is supported by grants, donations and volunteers. The organization now sells produce three days each week at markets located at Harborview Medical Center and New Hope.

In February, Jeffrey and Clean Greens opened G.R.E.A.N. House Coffee & Café, a restaurant and coffee shop in a remodeled house on 21st Avenue, right across the street from New Hope Baptist Church in Seattle’s Central District.

The building has solar panels, so the café gets most of its power from the sun. It serves espresso and a menu of sandwiches, salads and breakfast fare made from locally grown produce, including food grown on the Clean Greens farm.

The space is furnished with a few tables, each with two or three chairs, and one sofa in the corner. Out front is a pastry case and espresso machine and, behind a curtain, is the kitchen.

George Supang quickly prepared BLTs and grilled turkey and egg sandwiches for a few customers looking for lunch on a recent Thursday afternoon.

Most of the customers are employees working at area businesses and organizations, including nearby Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, Supang said.

“The idea is to make everyone feel like they’re home,” he said, before breaking from the conversation to check on customers.

The mission is hidden in the café’s name: G.R.E.A.N. stands for “Growing, retrofitting eco-friendly agricultural communities.”

Jeffrey hopes that the café will eventually provide enough money to keep the farm afloat without donations.

He also wants it to raise awareness among Central District residents. “They’re struggling so hard to survive that they’re not engaging in environmental issues.”

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