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Feeding the Need

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

7B CropSwap supporting 7B through nutrition

By Joshua Nishimoto | Photo by Tia Hawks

It all started when Tia Hawks wanted to donate home processed food to her local food bank. She had hoped that families would be able to enjoy higher quality produce during the cold winter months when foods like strawberries, asparagus and artichokes were harder to come by. Sadly, the local Sandpoint Food Bank was not able to take that donation, so Hawks and her family got creative.

“I had been going back and forth trying to brainstorm a way for my children to learn hands on what it's like to help others,” Hawks said. “I wanted my family to be an active part of a community that not only looks out for one another but, more importantly, works together to take care of one another.”

So, Hawks and her kids started bringing food baskets to their neighbors every week.

“Basket days are a fun day in our house,” she said. “Each family tells us how many people are in their household, and my kids play an active role in putting the baskets together.”

On October 15, 2019, Hawks and her family grew their project of handing out baskets to families around their local community and started feeding the larger community. Now, 7B CropSwap is helping to feed both Boundary and Bonner counties.

“7B CropSwap is important to the community because it is an outlet for everyone to take as much as they need [and] at the same time give just as much,” Hawks said. “Not everyone has the money to buy expensive and healthy food. Healthy food is so expensive. A balanced meal costs a pretty penny, and if you don't have that pretty penny then a Burger King kid’s meal is $1.99 and a bag of Top Ramen is 30 cents.”

When the community comes together in support of basic needs and desires for healthy food and healthy living, that is when the 7B CropSwap is at its best. Hawks has designed 7B CropSwap around the ancient system of bartering.

“When you're a part of a community like CropSwap, if you don't have the means to eat healthy, then everyone is willing to come together or barter respectfully,” she said. “I love home dried fruit. I don't love the prices, and drying fruit is rocket science in my kitchen. I do love trading my pickles for it. Bartering is a win-win for everyone in the end.”

7B CropSwap allows everyone to trade their harvests, yields of their hunts. It also allows farmers and hunters to trade anything made from their harvests or hunts, or for things that they can't grow, make or afford.

“I want to put dinner on your table so you can pay your electric bill and have dinner,” Hawks said. “I want you to be able to buy the tickets for your children to come home for Thanksgiving.”

For 7B CropSwap to be an effective and viable solution to families in need, it requires the community’s participation. Luckily, this community is filled with generous friends, donors and volunteers.

“Don Reese donated roughly 1,500 mason jars last year,” Hawks said. “Jennifer Svare donated starts for an entire herb garden; Diana at Sam's Produce makes sure she helps every week. Since the first harvest basket in 2019, there hasn't been a week that she hasn't found some way to contribute to the cause. Donna Price brought baskets for Homestead Holiday Dinners this year. She’s always contributing in any way she can; plums, bottles, etc.; the list goes on.”

7B CropSwap makes it easy to participate. Out of the laundry list of items, the following are always welcomed: mason jars and lids for canning corn, potatoes, green beans; apple pie for Christmas and Thanksgiving Homestead Holiday Dinners; turkeys, hams, waterfowl, and the 7B CropSwap can always use eggs.

“We are always open to cash donations,” Hawks said. “Cash funds help us to be a little more fluid in our donations; it allows us to do special things for the community like purchase pumpkins for local children on Halloween. Anyone is welcome to donate to 7B CropSwap using our website:”

Hawks said that she not only wants to see 7B CropSwap grow in nutritional support of the community, but she also plans to help in other ways.

“I have some really big goals in the next five years for CropSwap,” Hawks said. “I've been saving my nickels and dimes for a smaller piece of property to start a community garden. I want to help single mothers grow food and preserve it for the winter, or troubled teens occupy their time learning sustainable skills. I feel like troubled teens aren't bad kids, they're just bored. I'll give them something to do that makes them feel good about themselves. Gardening teaches children patience in the most graceful ways.”

No matter how high Hawks and her family’s aspirational goals are, it all comes back down to people helping people. It’s the heart of 7B CropSwap.

“The most important thing about CropSwap goes right back to the beginning,” Hawks said. “It's an outlet for my children to give back to their community. It's a way for them to learn what it's like to help others that are going without. Hendrick and Camden have such amazing lives, and they will have never experienced what it is like to go without, but at least they can actively help others so that they can have an understanding that not everyone is as fortunate.”

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