Genevieve Schaak. Photo by Paul Neevel.

Happening People

Genevieve Schaak

“My parents had a restaurant called The Kitchen Store,” says Genevieve Schaack, who grew up in Chicago. “My mom would feed unhoused people who came in. I’ve been inspired by her.” When the restaurant closed, her mother got into the food access aspect of social work. “I went to work with her in the early ’90s,” Schaack reports. “I learned about food and about helping other folks.” Schaack discovered Eugene on a West Coast trip in 2001 (“The trees downtown were the biggest I’d ever seen!”) and she returned for good a year later. “I moved to Saginaw, outside Cottage Grove,” she continues, “and lived on a farm with 14 others, representative of Eugene counterculture.” She worked as a dispatcher for wildland firefighters from 2006 to 2010, then enrolled at the University of Oregon to study fine arts and mathematics. “I was interested in teaching and educational policy,” she says. “I also got a degree in nonprofit management.” Schaack taught math as a volunteer at Wellsprings School in 2015, and when a paid position opened up, she took it. “Wellsprings is wonderful” she says, “Folks learn to respect themselves and others.” When COVID hit five years later, Wellsprings went remote, and Schaack returned to dispatching. In July 2022, she was hired as executive director of the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition, an organization in recovery after COVID. “At the time, I was the only employee,” she explains. “In the last couple years, we’ve gotten into some great things. Our Farm to School Coordinator Patrick Newson helps local farmers provide food for school lunches in Lane County, and Outreach Coordinator Saoirse Scott makes our Fill Your Pantry event amazing every year.” Other WFFC programs include Double Up Food Bucks, a SNAP-matching benefit; Little Lettuce, fresh veggies for kids 12 and under and Bucka Bucka Buck, a credit towards chicken or eggs for people facing food insecurity. Schaack and Scott also manage the Whiteaker Community Market in Scobert Gardens Park at 4th and Blair, open 11 to 4 on Sundays, May 5 through Oct. 20. The coalition’s free 72-page Locally Grown Guide, 21st Edition, can be found online and at Lane County farm stands, farmers markets and food stores.

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