Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Tapestry of Culture at the Rainier Valley Food Bank

The produce grown at the Seattle Community Farm goes to work trade participants and the Rainier Valley Food Bank (RVFB). This summer, our intern Victoria went to the food bank each Wednesday to share information with clients about the work trade program and the Cooking Matters class at the Seattle Community Farm. Here are her thoughts on the experience:

No larger than a classroom, the distribution room of the Rainier Valley Food Bank vibrates with energy and movement every Wednesday morning. Food bank clients lug around suitcases and duffel bags of food, while volunteers shuttle crates from the warehouse to the distribution room. On the outdoor patio, clients mingle clustered by language group as they wait to enter the distribution room.

Serving one of the most diverse neighborhoods in America, the Rainier Valley Food Bank is a vibrant assembly of people. Hunger does not discriminate: people of all cultures come together at the food bank.

This combination of many cultures creates the culture of the Rainier Valley Food Bank community. Although communication is challenging since dozens of different languages are spoken, the community is unified by the goal of eliminating hunger.

Since the Rainier Valley Food Bank’s founding in May 1991, it has undergone changes in management, name, and funding. Today the food bank has three full-time employees and two AmeriCorps VISTA members. The staff does an amazing job stretching the budget, with the help of over 500 volunteers annually. A handful of these volunteers come every single week, and some have volunteered at the food bank for years.

The Rainier Valley Food Bank transformed my relationship with and awareness of food. Without the privilege of food security, food loses its glamour. Being at the food bank forced me to remove my rose-tinted glasses of privilege and view food from a more basic perspective. When people are hungry, their relationship with food is more intimate, poignant, and primal. I saw humanity in the context of food insecurity — there is a raw honesty in asking for help with something so fundamental.

When I started doing outreach at the Rainier Valley Food Bank, I was a stranger. But on my last day, an elderly woman wrapped me in a warm embrace and told me I was a good girl. In just six weeks the Rainier Valley Food Bank wove me into their tapestry of culture. Although my presence at the food bank will gently fade away with time, the community I found there is now imprinted in my being.

I am so thankful for the perspectives and acceptance I found this summer at the Rainier Valley Food Bank. I am honored that I was able to help them with their work and to strengthen the relationship between the food bank and the Seattle Community Farm.

~ Victoria, Lettuce Link DukeEngage summer intern

Thanks for your hard work and dedication, Victoria. We know that the Rainier Valley Food Bank loved having you volunteer with them this summer!

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