May 2006 
Volume 05, Issue 1 
Main Feature

Feeding body and soul

ECF funds help White Center Food Bank in Seattle build a new home

Feeding body and soulAt a time when most people are waking up and having their morning coffee, most days there's already a line forming outside the White Center Food Bank in Seattle. No matter how uncomfortable the weather, the line forms like clockwork every morning.

Rick Jump, White Center Food Bank executive director, said these quarters—and the line outside—are temporary. Soon the food bank will open a new site, partly paid for with a grant of $40,000 from the Employees Community Fund of Boeing–Puget Sound.

Jump is especially excited about the indoor waiting room in the new building. "No more waiting outside in the rain and cold," he said, smiling.

Jump said most of the patrons, as he calls them, have one thing in common: They're trying to stretch what little money they have to cover food, rent and utilities.

Jump and his volunteers, many of whom are or were patrons, understand the dilemma of tight budgets and the condition of being poor. That's why it's so important to Jump that he and his volunteers treat patrons with respect and dignity. They know this could happen to anybody—to anyone who's lost a job, faced overwhelming medical bills, applied the rent money to fix a car needed to drive to work, or escaped an abusive spouse with few clothes and less money.

Feeding body and soulThat's the case of tall, slender, articulate "Pamela" (not her real name), who left a violent alcoholic husband after he threatened her and her son. She now lives with her son in a shelter for battered women. "White Center has gone out of its way to make me and the other women feel dignified and safe," she said. The food bank helped her find clothes and a cell phone to call 911. "Sometimes people pass judgment without knowing what a person's situation is," she said. "But not at White Center. I call the people here my angels."

In the food lines, patrons can choose—as they would in a grocery story—dry and canned goods, meat, fresh produce, baked goods, and household products such as laundry detergent and toilet paper. Volunteers offer food, explaining to some—immigrants for example—how unfamiliar foods can be cooked.

"We try to provide culturally appropriate, nutritious food," Jump said. "In the new building, we'll have a demonstration kitchen right off the waiting area where we can actually show people how to cook the foods they select."

The contrast between the food bank's new building and its cramped, dark temporary quarters in a former church is stark. The low-slung new building shines with white paint and new tile. Jump pointed with happiness at a garage door at one end of the building. "We can drive the truck right up to the door and unload the food directly into the storage area," he said. "I'm very, very excited. It'll be just like a grocery store."

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