Building Community with Food: Food is Free Washington
Food is Free Washington President David Thompson talks about the fresh produce and food he and his team provide to all Tacomans.
Ledger had the privilege of speaking to Food is Free Washington President David Thompson. He provided background and details on the nonprofit that provides free fresh produce and food to residents across Washington – the majority of this information comes from the Tacoma-based branch.
This organization started because Thompson had a surplus of food. “I had too many products. I was trying to give it to the neighbors. I was trying to convince my kids and my family to get it, ”he said. “But I had too many things; I couldn’t get rid of it and it was so much fun growing up. So, I found the food is free on Facebook, and we went from there.
So this business with Food is Free evolved into Food is Free Washington which started in 2015 and flourished from there. Now his wife and fellow volunteers are working hard to get free products for all Tacomans.
This concern for the accessibility of free produce and food has come from the food deserts of Tacoma – parts of Tacoma where individuals lack access to affordable and nutritious food items. Thompson says these great food deserts are evident in eastern and southern Tacoma.
“On the Eastside, an estimated 60,000 people do not have a grocery store. Then if you go to South Tacoma there is only one grocery store across I-5. Southern Tacoma is the other unsaid food desert, ”he said.
Due to this problem, Food is Free aims to accomplish many tasks to ensure food safety. They have different divisions to achieve these goals. They have Food Rescue, which is grocery stores offering Free Food Washington food that is near expiration but not expired.
“We are going to do FIG sharing days. They will start on July 11. These are events that will take place every Sunday and all summer until fall. We will be distributing food in local parks. We have a rotating schedule of four parks, ”said Thompson.
They also focus on gardening and building new gardens. Street gardens are something they created. Currently, Thompson and his team are preparing for this coming summer and the goals they have in mind to continue their work.
Over the coming year, Free Food Washington is working to build 30 more gardens around Tacoma. Thompsons sees the need for gardens in central and southern Tacoma as well as the need for garden support.
Another big goal they are working on is the 20% initiative. This initiative would ensure that 20% of the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in Tacoma are grown locally, whether through community-supported agriculture, urban farms or home gardeners.
“At the start of the pandemic, we saw empty store shelves. It was the result of our supply chain disruption. What we can do by bringing only 20% of our fresh produce to Tacoma, [is that] we could help stabilize this food chain system, ”said Thompson.
Due to all the plans they are in charge of now and in the future, they find themselves very busy with the amount they are making and are actively looking for new members. In particular, they are looking for a food rescue coordinator and a gardening team to help them with their goals.
However, even with his team how it is, they have already seen the fruits of their labor. Especially throughout this pandemic, Food is Free Washington has been able to help give food directly to the population.
“There is no way to test. We just feed everyone. The little tables in the neighborhoods have helped a lot of people and have become a lifeline for some. For our homeless population, it has become a real lifeline for them, ”he said.
Overall, Free Food in Washington has a mission. And that mission not only includes food security for Tacomans, but Thompson also hopes Food is Free helps build community among Tacoma community members.
“Food is Free is about building communities and using food as a tool to do it,” said Thompson. “The idea is to get to know your neighbors and get your neighbors to come and talk about the garden. Gardening is a universal thing that can bring all kinds of people together. “
For more information on receiving or donating food:
Other website: foodisfree253.com
If you need food assistance, you can access a Food is Free panel or contact through Facebook for more information and assistance. You can also sign up with the app called Fresh Food Connect which works to get food delivered straight to those who need it.