Super Bowl Blitz

The city is crazy with 12th man fever, and so are we. Everywhere you go in Seattle, you’ll see blue and white 12 flags and Seattleites wearing 12 Fan Jerseys; everyone in Seattle seems to be embracing the Seahawks spirit. But did you know that the 12th man’s origins go much deeper than being the loudest fans in nation? The 12th man was quite literally the spectator that was ready when called, to support his favorite team, at any cost.

One of the earliest usages of the “12th man” came on January 2nd, 1922, when Texas A & M played Centre College, then a national powerhouse in college football. Arriving as underdogs, the Texas A & M squad played everyman on their roster until they were depleted. In need of another player, in case of injury, the coach turned to the fans for support. E. King Gill, an ardent supporter, stepped up to become the “12th Man”. Though Gill ended up not playing in the game, his willingness to step up and support helped Texas A & M win, against the odds.

Just like Gill, the fans of the Seattle Seahawks are infamous for the way their support changes the dynamic of the game. The 12th men of the Seahawks aren’t only spectators; they’re people who shift the momentum of the game. The 12th man is so effective that on November 27th, 2005, the Seahawk’s head coach dedicated the game ball to the 12th man. In this year’s drive to the Super Bowl, the vocal support that the 12th man makes has been associated with the Seahawk’s success. The 12th man is so distracting for the other team that one opponent stated that in the Clink “You can barely hear yourself think.”

Founded by Beverly Graham, OSL heeded the call to become the 12th Man for Seattle’s hungry in 1989. Our first meals were served at Occidental Park, in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood. Since then, our area of operations has expanded to include meal service throughout much of Seattle and parts of the greater Puget Sound region. Through our Food in Motion Program, we provide nutritional support to thousands of people, from Lake City to Renton and West Seattle to the Eastside. From our original epicenter in the Pioneer Square neighborhoods, OSL works to shake up hunger and shift the needle towards food security and stability for every Seattlelite, every day.

Throughout history, the 12th man has truly played a pivotal role shaping the outcome of games and standing for their fellow man. That’s why this week; OSL is calling you to join our team against hunger.  Just as the 12th man stands behind the Seahawks, we need you to stand behind the OSL team, which goes head to head with poverty every day.   Until Midnight on Monday February 3rd, OSL is looking to the 12thMan to Blitz hunger and provide thousands of more meals to more of our hungry neighbors. Our goal of $12,000 will ensure that thousands of more meals will reach those who are challenged with hunger in our community.

So how can you be a 12th man Against Hunger?

OSL crafted more than 426,000 meals for the food insecure in the greater Seattle area last year, and has served more than 3.9 million meals since we were founded nearly 25 years ago. The City has been brought to life with Seahawks spirit; lets help save the lives of those living in our community struggling with hunger every day.

Don’t just be a fan, be the 12th Man.

Homeless or Unhoused?

Every day OSL strives to be the advocates for those we serve and to represent them in a respectful, dignified, and caring manner. Although some of the individuals and families we serve have a roof over their head, many of our guests call the streets of Seattle home. The majority lack the resources and or ability to access food or nutritionally dense meals in conventional ways and so use our services to meet their nutritional needs.

There is an enormous difference between being called “homeless”, and living unhoused. If we lived unhoused in Seattle, we still have a home. It is Seattle. The term homeless implies that someone does not have a home and is somehow viewed as “less” than others.

We find this term to be denigrating and so we use the word “unhoused”. We are reminded every day that that those we serve, whether economically challenged guests, volunteers, or the greater community, are “us”, with different life circumstances; our friends, our families, our neighbors, our community members. Us.

OSL adopted the term “unhoused” many years ago, and has been instrumental in facilitating the change in language and perception.


The general understanding of the “homeless” by the greater public is often based upon legal definitions of homelessness, set down by specific governing bodies. The term “homeless” is not static. It was first recognized by the UN in the 1940s, as an effort to categorize peoples lacking regular living quarters.

The term “homeless” has come to encompass a broad range of people who fall within those parameters. Yet, “homeless” does not adequately define the experiences or outlook of those who fall within in these broad terms.

The social and personal implications are attached to the term “homeless” often inaccurately represent those who live “unhoused”. Often, our guests belong to a community. Sometimes that might be an encampment of the unhoused, such as Nicklesville. Other times, it is less formal, such as Seattle’s Outdoor Meal Site.

Social and Personal Impact

The label of “homeless” has unfortunate connotations. It implies that one is a failure, is “less than”, and it undermines self-esteem and progressive forward motion.

The use of the term unhoused, instead of “homeless”, has a profound personal impact upon those in insecure housing situations.

From Palo Alto, the story of Norm Carroll, a recent city council candidate, shows us how the power of terminology changed his outlook upon life. Carroll thought of himself as homeless, as a wanderer without a home until 1998, when a young stranger forever changed Carroll’s self identification of his situation and status. This young boy asked Carroll if he had a house. Not a home, but a house.

“That little boy didn’t think of me as someone to step over, ignore or push out of town….To him I was just somebody without a house. That’s when I realized I was unhoused, not homeless.”

Since that moment, Norm Carroll has secured affordable housing and employment, and in 2005, Carroll ran for Palo Alto City Council. Though Carroll was unsuccessful in his campaign for public office, his life and countless others were forever changed.

In the bigger picture, when society uses disparaging words such as homeless, we conjure up in our minds; people who may be derelict, unclean, addicts, alcoholics, criminals…All of these assumptions are false, misleading, and unjust. In today’s unstable economic climate, anyone can find themselves living without shelter. It is an epidemic that continues to run rampant. With an unlivable minimum wage and housing that is sky high; many find themselves “one paycheck” away from an unstable living condition.

Home is where the heart is; Seattle is Home

According to, home is “the place or region where something is native or most common.”

For most of our guests, that “common place” is Seattle and the Puget Sound Region. The one night count conducted by Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness (SKCCH) and Operation Night Watch, with more than 900 volunteers, counted 2736 men, women, and children without shelter during the three hour street count.

According to SKCCH this number is an increase of 5% over those found without shelter last year and does not include all those who take great care not to be visible, as well as many people with children, living in cars, or couch surfing.

Organizations that work directly on the front line, including OSL, estimate that on any given night in Seattle, more than 12,000 individuals sleep without shelter or with temporary shelter. That equates to 13,140,000 meals that are needed each year to help those in Seattle that are challenged with hunger. In 2013 alone, OSL served 426,055 meals to 8791 unduplicated individuals.

Although there are many in our community who remain unhoused, they still call the greater Seattle area “home”.

Welcome to the OSL Blog

A year has come and a year has gone. As we say goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014, OSL has some exciting news for you. In 2014, we are debuting the new OSL Blog! And if you can’t tell from the exclamation, we are excited to share a more intimate look into our organization and all the great things we do. We hope that you will enjoy our posts as much as we enjoy sharing it with you.

Beginning today, OSL will post regular updates on all latest and greatest OSL happenings; from kitchen and chef reports to discussions on the national status of food insecurity. We will include guest blogs from our chefs, called the Chef Life, and the occasional video blog from our excellent staffers. Today we begin with an OSL introduction.

OSL purpose and mission: OSL is a multifaceted organization that began simply with the delivery of 30 organic lunches by our founder Beverly Graham, in 1989. Currently we serve three nutritionally dense meals daily, to a variety of populations. We are serving approximately 36,000 meals each month. Entering our 25th year of service, OSL continues to be essential in both the emergency food system and the sustainable food system in Seattle. Our concept of nutritionally dense food, once considered radically unnecessary, has been instrumental in changing the minds and protocols of other meal providers and governmental agencies.

OSL operates and manages Seattle’s only Outdoor Meal Site (OMS) where more than 170,000 meals are served each year.  Neither the Seattle rain, the occasional snow, nor city protests keeps us away from serving the hungry in our community. We also serve several area shelters, transitional housing shelters, children and teenage programs, tent cities, Nicklesville, the Real Change vendors, and the Municipal Community Court participants.  We work diligently to help create food equity in Seattle’s emergent and sustainable food systems. OSL strives daily to live up to our organizational tenet; Nutritional Excellence is a right we are born to, not a privilege we earn, by the delivery of more than 430,000 no-cost meals annually.

What Else? OSL has also developed satellite programs that have come fundamental in the emergent food system chain in Seattle. One of those is our Food In Motion program or FIM.

FIM had its beginnings in 2005 with the purchase of our first refrigerated vehicle made possible by the Seattle Foundation. It was a rather informal sharing of meal supplies collected by OSL, with other meal provider agencies that had no transportation resources. In 2008, a group from the Executive Leadership Program at Seattle U asked OSL to collaborate in the creation of a meal ingredient pick-up program with Northwest Harvest. They called this program Food In Motion. This collaboration formalized our food rescue project, and although our partners from Seattle U graduated and moved on, their passion remains with us today. FIM has expanded far beyond the original vision and is a vital part of our service, both procuring ingredients needed for the more than 35,000 meals we create monthly, and as an element in food sustainability within our community. Moving nearly half a million pounds of food annually throughout King County, FIM is an eco-friendly way to deliver meals to those in need. Rescuing high quality ingredients such as salmon, halibut, poultry, beef, produce, fresh fruit, and dry goods, from restaurants, caterers, and grocery stores, FIM redistributes food previously slated for the waste stream, yet still fresh and usable. OSL chefs use what we need, crafting the food items into full, hot, nutritious meals, and share what we don’t need with other meal programs, and dozens of human service providers. What began informally with the purchase of our first refrigerated vehicle, funded by the Seattle Foundation in 2005, has now grown into more than 2,110,068 lbs of rescued meal ingredients, used by OSL and shared with more than 25 human service providers. In 2012 OSL rescued 434,000 lbs and delivered to 26 agencies.

Our commitment to share resources was the impetus behind the creation of FIM to deliver to programs unable to access these resources, as well as sharing our kitchen, staff, vehicles, and supplies. Food In Motion is unique not only in the types of nutritionally dense food we rescue, but also food that is specific to meal provision and meal providers. There are no similar programs serving the needs of Meal Providers and the clients they assist in WA State.

We estimate the meal supplies FIM will transport in 2013 at a modest $3.99 per pound or $1,731,977 dollars; an invaluable resource for the hungry in our community. By expanding Food In Motion we estimate we will effectively serve more than 20,000 unduplicated, food challenged individuals annually. OSL now has 2 refrigerated vehicles and is currently working on the purchase of a mobile food pantry. We currently have five dedicated food delivery vehicles in our fleet. With the recent significant reduction of SNAP (food stamps) benefits this meal service and education is even more paramount.

What makes OSL unique? There are several key points that make us truly unique from Seattle’s other meal providers.

  • OSL is the only non-bio toxic charity kitchen in the State of WA
  • OSL uses quality ingredients, organic when possible, sustainably grown, humanely raised, ethically harvested, and local to the United States. We operate from the premise that meals prepared with love, nourish with love; body, mind and spirit.
  • OSL shares resources with other providers.
  • OSL operates the only sanctioned outdoor meal site in Seattle. For many of those we serve the OMS is the only place that they can get a hot nutritionally balanced meal. A great tasting, healthful meal can change their whole day.
  • OSL is one of the only organizations that take volunteers under the age of 13.
  • OSL provides community service opportunities for more than 4000 people each year.

These are just a few things that make us unique…Stay tuned to learn more.

How do we get involved? Volunteer! Experience firsthand by putting on your food handlers gloves and rolling up your sleeves! Perhaps you have always wanted to peel 500 potatoes, slice 20 lbs of tomatoes, dice 50 lbs of onions, or maybe you are an expert fundraiser, or you have time to serve a few years on the OSL board. There are so many ways to get involved. Call us, email us, and dive right in!

Stay Tuned and visit us often!


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