In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, with Boeing layoffs and a general citywide recession, many Seattle families were in financial trouble and looking to the community for some assistance.
The churches in the University District were overwhelmed by families asking for help with food. There was a small program at Christ Episcopal Church which provided a few canned goods once per month, but the requests for this food were more than could be handled. At least one-third of the families asking for help were being turned away. The closest food banks at the time were in Fremont and North Seattle, and were difficult to get to during their very limited hours of service.
In 1982, Jim Stockdale, the Minister at University Christian Church, convened meetings with community members, including a coalition called University District Service League, to discuss what could be done. The conversations identified the growing unmet need for food, and University District Service League, which was made up of representatives from University District churches, social service agencies, civic groups, and nearby businesses committed to opening a food bank. The first financial contributors to University District Food Bank were University Kiwanis, University Presbyterian Church, the UW Greek System, and Safeco Insurance. University Christian Church provided the space. Trish Twomey was hired as our first director.
On May 4th 1983, University District Food Bank opened its doors for the first time. A donated home refrigerator provided enough storage space for the perishable items we had on-hand. Our first year’s budget allowed $100 per month to purchase food to supplement what was donated. We served approximately 200 bags of groceries per week. By 1984, this number doubled, and in 1986, we were the 5th busiest food bank in Seattle.
In July 2016, University District Food Bank moved from the University Christian Church into a new home, one shared with 49 affordable housing apartments and a job skills training coffee shop. We opened our doors in this new location on July 11th, 2016. With this transition, we were able to significantly increase the amount of food provided to the Northeast Seattle community as our space increased in size, the rooftop garden, Rooftop Roots, was added to our operations, as well as adding and expanding additional programs. Today, we remain one of the busiest food bank in the City from the perspective of total household visits each month.