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The Tour of Food Banks

by Catherine McAuliffe

Each summer our wonderful Partner Programs department organizes what are called Van Tours. These tours provide Northwest Harvest staff with the opportunity to travel around to a variety of the different programs to which we help supply food. For the past two years (not coincidentally also the number of summers that I have been on staff) I have taken part on one of these tours. Both times I have loved seeing these different programs and my eyes have been opened to some of the incredible things that our partners do.

With Northwest Harvest being the only food bank where I have ever volunteered and especially now that I work here, I often find myself just assuming that all food banks work like we do. That definitely isn’t the case. Furthermore, I don’t always think about the logistics that go into making a meal program work. Having the chance to see these programs up close and talk to the staff who put so much of themselves into the work they do is a refreshing glance at the bigger picture of what we strive to accomplish at Northwest Harvest and within the hunger response network as a whole.

This year, I was only able to go for half of the day. In that half day I was able to visit four different programs. Each one was impressively different. At Recovery Café I was able to see a meal program that also provides a sense of community to its members. In addition to feeling at home there, members take part in classes and meetings which are designed to aid them in their recovery. The next stop was Family Works Food Bank. At Family Works, not only do they operate a food bank for clients who come to them but they are also able to bring food out to clients who are otherwise unable to access the food bank.

Ava at Family Works Showing Off Her Shopping System

Ava at Family Works Showing Off Her Shopping System

Following our education at Family Works, we headed to the University District where we went to two very different programs. Our first stop was ROOTS Young Adult Shelter. At ROOTS, young adults are able to find a place to stay and a warm meal each night. This has been a great help to many young people who either moved to Seattle and wanted a safe place to stay and those who have transitioned out of foster homes and needed some additional help getting on their feet. At ROOTS these young adults are able to get help finding more permanent housing and help becoming more independent. After ROOTS, we made our way to the University District Food Bank. This food bank showed me one of the most economical uses of space that I have ever seen. They are able to get an impressive amount of food given the very tight quarters they find themselves in.

Beautiful Mural at ROOTS

Beautiful Mural at ROOTS

All in all, it was a great experience to get out of my Northwest Harvest bubble and see what other programs do, the people who make them possible, and ways that I can do my job better. For a look at some of the pictures taken during this tour, visit our Facebook page.

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