by Jack Russillo
All 12 of the virtual concerts have been published, but there is still time to donate food and money to the campaign that is helping people access meaningful resources while also creating a platform for local musical artists.
For the last 12 weeks, the Music with a Message campaign featured weekly virtual performances by 12 artists from the Seattle area to raise food and monetary donations for Rainier Valley Food Bank and South King County & Eastside COVID Mutual Aid. To date, more than 1,130 pounds of food has been donated through the campaign and about $2,500 has been raised, which will be split between the two non-profits.
People who want to donate food through the campaign have until the end of the day on Sunday, April 4, to drop food off at any of the partnering businesses, such as The Reef Cannabis, The Bakeréé, and Clutch Cannabis.
Financial donations can be made here until April 21 or people can scan the QR codes on the 350-plus posters that have been posted around Seattle. Food donations can also be dropped off in a contactless manner directly at the Rainier Valley Food Bank, near the corner of South Adams Street and Rainier Avenue South, Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“From the beginning of the pandemic, our goal was to feed as many people as possible as safely as possible,” says Sam Middleton, the director of operations and planning at the Rainier Valley Food Bank. “In order to do that, we need this kind of a partnership. First of all, what they’re doing is significant for us, but it’s also that every little bit counts. Just to have this surge coming in right now is great because, at the end of the day, we’d have to cut back on how many people we serve without folks helping us raise money, get food, and bring people in who are going to be volunteers.”
The campaign was created by a partnership among the Seattle World Tour Foundation, a handful of Seattle cannabis retailers, and the diverse group of artists that performed over the past 12 weeks. Seattle World Tour Foundation is a non-profit that has grown from the partnership between the music platform Respect my Region and the Seattle hip hop band All Star Opera.
The Seattle World Tour Foundation began in 2018 when it hosted a five-night concert series featuring more than 20 acts and culminating with performances from All Star Opera. The aim then was to help generate resources for Mary’s Place, a non-profit that supports women and families experiencing homelessness. The following year, a similar concert series raised more than $10,000 for Mary’s Place. Seattle World Tour’s mission is “to give back to our local communities who are experiencing crisis or are in need while simultaneously promoting local art,” according to Seth McDonald, a co-director of the Seattle World Tour Foundation and a member of the All Star Opera music group.
This year’s campaign featured local musicians Sol, Dave Shanaé, and La Fonda, among others, as well as accompanying interviews with each artist. In the campaign’s final installment during the week of March 29, All Star Opera performed.
“There are so many good little nuggets across the whole series,” says McDonald. “We were really focused on amassing a lineup of 12 artists that have a history giving back through their own endeavors or their music has a message in it that [is] rooted in social justice and so we felt like we put together an all-star lineup for the series as far as people who are out there doing good in the community.”
The campaign has helped showcase these artists’ talent and social justice work, then, as well as the Rainier Valley Food Bank’s. Their work isn’t easy, especially right now. Operating out of a 600-square-foot space since before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the organization shifted to a home-delivery model when the pandemic hit. Currently, the food bank distributes about 7,000 bags of groceries or about 130,000 pounds of food per month, up from about 100,000 before the pandemic. Grocery bags, baby food, and diapers are among the items that the food bank distributes that have the highest demand and the lowest supply.
“The demand for food and the demand for support has surged during the pandemic,” says Middleton. “Part of the way that we can meet that and feel confident that we can continue to get those 7,000 bags of groceries out every month is because of our volunteers, our neighbors, and partnerships like this one, where folks that are just reaching out to us and committed to giving us support so we can keep going.”
Campaigns like this one — and the energy and interest they generate — give Middleton a lot of hope. “I’m excited about the possibility of getting more volunteers, more donors, or people who want to do food drives or diaper drives in the future,” he says. “I’m excited about the impact of that kind of community organization. I can’t quantify that kind of impact now, but it’s huge. I’m really excited about it because that’s what we need to be able to continue doing what we’re doing.”
Members of All Star Opera volunteered at the food bank during the campaign, helping to send food to about 2,000 individuals during a single day, but they know that more help is always needed.
“Let’s say we end up with 1,250 to 1,300 pounds of food raised. That’s really just a splash in the bucket compared to what [Rainier Valley Food Bank] does every month, and I don’t want to parade as if we made this majority contribution to their efforts,” says McDonald. “Our hope was just to give as much as we can, get people to give back, and get more people more aware of the invaluable work that they do. Hopefully this campaign has a ripple effect.”
Jack Russillo has been reporting in Western Washington since 2013. He covers the environment, social justice, and other topics that affect a sustainable and equitable future. He currently lives in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood.
Featured image: Rainier Valley Food Bank sign. (Photo: Alex Garland)
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