Virtual Garden Party

We’re having a Virtual Garden Party at Rooftop Roots, the garden on top of our building, at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, August 5. The party will help us raise money to ensure we’re able to serve as many community members as possible At 6:30 p.m. we’ll be going “live” on our website with a virtual tour of our rooftop garden, a delicious cooking demo by the London Plane, and a musical performance by Birch Pereira & the Gin Joints. You’ll get to hear from our food bank staff and board, and learn more about what we do and about our very special rooftop roots garden space. We hope you can join us! Please donate what you can at registration. We’re excited to see you there!

Gate Art: Q & A with Artist Nikki McClure


If you’ve stopped by the new food bank at 5017 Roosevelt Way NE, you’ve probably noticed the beautiful new piece of community art on our gate.

Our Director, Joe, approached artist Nikki McClure last year to commission a piece of art for the new food bank entrance. After Nikki sketched the piece in her traditional papercut style, we partnered with 2K Metal Works to have the design cut in to metal panels.

The Process

Keith Leggett of 2K Metal Works describes his process: “The first part is to take a vision and create from that vision a specific type of computer file which can then be converted into “machine code” which controls the cutting machine during the cutting process.” The specific file type is called a vector file. After sketching her design in a scale of 1’’ to 1’, Nikki cut her drawing from black paper. The cutouts were scanned and then converted into a vector file.

Q: What was your inspiration for this piece?

A: I thought about what a food bank does for the community. I have an apple tree outside my studio at home. I thought about how an apple tree ages and is taken care of by many people over a long period of time. It represents care, habitat, and support.

Since we can’t plant real apple trees in front of the building, I like the idea of making more trees in an urban environment. When people look at the gate, it should feel like gathering under a tree. From the street, the piece feels like a cave, a sheltered place. And the trees look like they are supporting the building.

Q: How was this project different from your other work?

A: I’ve done a couple small metal pieces, but nothing on this scale. I’m excited about this – it makes me want to do more public art. Joe offered me lots of freedom and trust, which I really appreciate. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to make this piece. It’s an honor.



Nikki McClure is a papercut artist, author, and illustrator, based in Olympia. From her website: “I cut my images from black paper with an X-Acto knife. Everything is connected. It is all one piece of paper, yet now it holds a story.”


2K Metal Works consists of Keith Leggett and his nephew, Maxwell Leggett. He started the company in 2004 with his original partner, Kathryn Shiohira.

Rooftop Roots: Fresh vegetables and gardening education

Our latest project, Rooftop Roots, represents a new source of fresh produce for our food bank customers, and an opportunity to empower low-income youth through hands-on gardening education.

Growing Food

Our new rooftop garden will grow nutritious fruits, vegetables, herbs, and honey for thousands who seek food security and resources to build self-sufficiency.

Tended by experienced staff and volunteer gardeners, over 2,000 plants will rotate seasonally and produce over 10,000 pounds of produce annually. 


Photo: Paula Skarr Photography

Building Community

Beginning in August 2016, we will open our roof to low-income youth from Jane Addams and Eckstein Middle Schools – 2 of the 10 schools that partner with us in Packs for Kids.

In our first pilot year, 50 young people will learn basic gardening skills, how to care for a variety of vegetables, fruits, and herbs, and how to prepare simple and healthy meals – including culturally diverse recipes – with their freshly grown ingredients. They will harvest produce and bring it home to cook with their families.

How You Can Help

We need $25,000 by mid-July to successfully launch our first rooftop growing season this summer. This includes the core items that make up our garden:

  • Thousands of pounds of special low-density soil developed for rooftop gardens
  • 4,000 milk crates – 2 crates support each plant
  • Landscaping fabric to line the milk crates and contain the soil
  • Gardening tools and equipment

Help us reach our goal of $25K by donating to and sharing our Generosity campaign.

Photo May 19, 11 54 16 AM

Milk crates will serve as planters for our rooftop garden


Help us grow roots in our new home!

campaignimageWe’re excited to ask our community to help catalyze Rooftop Roots – our new rooftop garden and community engagement work.

As part of our Fight Hunger Build Hope campaign for a new food bank building, we’re opening a garden on the roof of the new food bank that will ultimately generate 10,000 pounds of produce every year for food bank families.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • 2,000 square feet of raised garden beds
  • apiary with three beehives to serve as pollinators and provide locally harvested honey for food bank customers
  • hands-on gardening and nutrition education with low-income students from our Packs For Kids partner schools

This garden is an investment in sustainability for the University District Food Bank, for our clients, and for our community. With your help, our new rooftop garden will be a new source of fresh produce for our food bank, and the foundation for new community partnerships in gardening education and outreach.

Help us reach our goal of $25K by donating to and sharing our Generosity campaign.




Staff Feature: Dave

IMG_20160505_143750Dave manages our walk-in food bank three days a week. You’re likely to find him sorting through boxes of rotten salad greens while welcoming a new group of volunteers, leading them in a banana freezing project, writing daily fresh sheets, or singing a Talking Heads song in the back room after hours. Through the chaos of long lines and volunteer misadventures, he’s holding it all together with enthusiasm and compassion.

Q: What is your favorite part about your job?

A: The people! I love meeting people from all walks of life. In one day I can meet someone from Austria and someone who works as a paranormal investigator. I get to learn from their stories and get inspired.

It’s cool to be part of the anti-hunger movement and work with a talented team of coworkers. I love talking about food banking with other people in the field; it’s good for morale.

Q: What is the most challenging part about your job?

A: It’s hard to run a grocery store with volunteer labor. Volunteers don’t always show up and it’s challenging to ensure the bare minimum of food safety and respect for our customers.

Q: How has working at the food bank affected your life?

A: Before I was a manager, I was a volunteer, and before that, I was a customer, so I’ve been interacting with the food bank for five years and working here for two. I did a lot of my growing up here, and I’ve come really far as a person and professionally.

I love that [this job] challenges me and I’ve learned to overcome various circumstances such as having to remove volunteers or customers from the space when needed. It’s about meeting people where they’re at and being the person who needs to do that all the time.

Q: What are your food bank hopes and dreams?

A: I’d like us to be a food bank that addresses the root causes of hunger. The U District as a neighborhood can feel really transient, so I’d like to us to reach out and build community for people struggling with food insecurity and food illiteracy.

I want to offer a space for community organizing to address problems in this neighborhood, such as the lack of public drinking fountains and bathrooms. In order for that to happen, we need to raise our voices to make life better for our community.

I’d love to offer a communal cooking space, canning classes to learn about fermentation, education space in our future rooftop garden, and transportation to farmland outside the city. We could connect people with means of production for growing their own food and become champions for public health.

Q: Can you share a memorable food bank story?

A: One of my best food bank memories was going to a friend’s house who is also a food bank customer. We prepared dinner using ingredients from the food bank, and had a great meal and conversation. That experience really reminded me why the food bank is important.

Sometimes in the day-to-day grind, it’s hard to see our real purpose. I wonder; Are we a disposal service for grocery stores? Are we a work program for folks to complete their community services hours, or a place for people to get free bread? Maybe we are all of those things but we are also a force that provides food and community for people who need it.