by Elizabeth Turnbull
After the pandemic vastly increased demand for food and other services, the Rainier Valley Food Bank announced, today, that it is acquiring a new building in South Seattle in order to expand it’s programming and better meet existing needs.
“Our space really has not been adequate for us to serve our clients for a very long time,” Gloria Hatcher-Mays, the Executive Director of Rainier Valley Food Bank, told the Emerald. “We knew that we were going to have to grow at some point.”
To comply with social distancing guidelines this past year, the food bank began distributing more food via home delivery, which grew the program from 200 to 1,000 home deliveries a week. Volunteer support also increased by 166 percent and To-Go Food Bags increased from 300 to about 600 per week.
While fewer people were entering the food bank because of the pandemic, the facility stood at just 1,200 square feet — a space much smaller than the new building which will be 8,000 square feet once proposed updates are complete.
Although the space is new to the food bank, the South Seattle community knows it as Bonney Waston’s Southwest Mortuary property. Standing on Rainier Avenue South, the food bank has plans to use the new building to expand its programming into areas like financial assistance, worker training, an entrepreneurship incubator, and other ventures. Hatcher-Mays underscored that she welcomes input from the community on ways to help make the space work for them.
In order to help clients learn about food, the new facility will have a garden in addition to a commercial kitchen. Individuals who are looking to begin food businesses of their own will also be able to use the facilities to help ease early overhead costs.
“We really want it not to be a just a food bank but we really want it to also be a community hub,” Hatcher-Mays said. “We’re looking forward to announcing to the community that we’re going to be embarking on this journey to make that our new home”
While most of the funding for the new building and renovations has come from the state, private donors, and large scale corporate donors, the food bank is looking for continued help from donors and volunteers to help raise capital for proposed renovations.
“We’re super excited about all these things,” Hatcher-Mays said. “We know that we have a lot of work to do and need a lot of help to get us to that point but this new building is going to afford us that opportunity.”
Elizabeth Turnbull is a journalist with reporting experience in the U.S. and the Middle East. She has a passion for covering human-centric issues and doing so consistently.
Featured image: Rainier Valley Food Bank volunteers organize donations. (Photo: Alex Garland)
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