Meet The Original Food Bank Team!


How did you get involved with the Food Bank?

The timing was just remarkable. I can’t tell you what a glorious process it was to set up. Everything just fell into place and everyone wanted to help. The U District was filled with people who had no homes, no food, nowhere to go and we all came together to make the food bank happen. It felt like there a wonderful guiding spirit that helped put this together. 

Dick Cunningham was instrumental in getting the churches behind it and it felt like Trish Twomey appeared out of the blue and was so phenomenal, as was the University Christian Church community. Everyone should have an experience like this in their lifetime.

Were you also on the board?

I wasn’t on the board for the Food Bank but I organized the U-District Service League and this was our response to proliferating social betterment in the neighborhood. We knew it would help if we had an umbrella organization for all the services we’d like to establish. I brought together all the services in the neighborhood to support each other.

What was it like gathering the community together in the early days to donate or volunteer?

This was Trish’s domain – we met every month as part of the Service League to get the Food Bank off the ground. We tried to get as many church members involved at that point as well. University Presbyterian had a large and involved congregation who brought a lot of donations and people to help boost the effort.

What was the biggest challenge to overcome in the beginning?

We didn’t have any competition in the area, and everybody got right in there and did a wonderful job of helping. But in the beginning, initially, it was hard to get the space donated, but then University Christian Church stepped up and we were all so grateful. 

What is your fondest memory of your time volunteering Food Bank? 

The paper drives that Trish organized. One time in particular, I remember her in the back of the truck putting everything together and surrounded by supplies. She had a huge smile on her face even though it was a lot of work. That is a memory I love. I wish someone had a picture of Trish in that moment.

Any other thoughts or memories you’d like our community to know?

The thing that made it go was that everyone sensed a greater need and the city was so helpful. People learned to trust each other and that was a wonderful thing to see grow as we headed into the next decade of community planning. Residents, businesses, faith community all working together made it far better. It’s one thing we did that was a big success because we all came together. 

This trust grew out of a common goal and it’s what we need now to bring everyone together. Tackling a local problem doesn’t just happen, we need to get the engine going again, join hands. This can happen again.

Also, the new food bank is magnificent and Joe is a miracle worker.


How long were you a pastor at University Christian Church?

Eighteen years. I managed education and social justice, which led to the Food Bank. I also ran a program for seniors called the 6:10 Club and the latch-key program, focusing on kids at University Heights grade school, which was before and after school. 

Was there a certain moment or series of events that lead you to co-found the Food Bank?

First thing is the dynamic of the members of the church, very progressive, and cared about what they did in the world. The senior pastor, and my colleague, James Stockdale was an advocate for the church being relevant to the broader University District community. That was in the 1970s. A lot of churches were on the margin with the Vietnam War, churches were split, many didn’t feel they should be socially active and some did, including ours.  

What was it like gathering the community together in the early days to donate or volunteer?

We had a space in the basement that used to be the church boiler room built in the early 1900s, so we said let’s use this space. It had an outside entrance and alley access. People were very willing to engage in it and volunteer. They would come one or three times a week. It’s a basic human need, so why wouldn’t you do it?

What was the biggest challenge to overcome in the beginning?

Where are we going to get the food from? The Church Council of Greater Seattle and the Washington Association of Churches operated out of our church. Boeing had had some bad days and people in the church rallied around that and realized in this country how can we let people go hungry? So it was engrained in our community already. Then Trish set up food drives at various churches and grocery stores and at the UW campus. Trish was a delightful person to take charge of that. She was a dynamo. 

What’s your proudest achievement during those years?

The church responded to the needs of people in the community, and that’s my vision of what the church ought to be doing. Our church was concerned about what was happening today and how can we could help it. There was a line around the block at the Food Bank and you couldn’t ignore it. The community saw the need and stepped up to help.

Boeing was a visible example of people who had lost their jobs, as well as seniors in the community who lived alone or didn’t have resources. The hunger issue is one that is very subtle because who wants to admit that they are hungry in a country with so much food?

Any other thoughts or memories you’d like our community to know?

Trish Twomey was the first executive director and was the most valuable employee that I have ever worked with. I’ve done a lot of stuff in my life and she was an excellent person to grasp the concept and move it forward. She managed the food bank and the 6:10 Club. 

Patty is a gem. She was referred to as the mayor of City Hall in the U-District. She was phenomenal at bringing people together and organizing. We worked together on many projects, including trying to create a youth hostel in the church that ultimately didn’t work out.

These are two powerful women who need to be noted for their work in helping other people. 


What years were you Executive Director of the UDFB? 

May of 1983 until summer 1993, about 10 years. 

How did you get involved?

I was working at University Christian Church running the congregation meal plan and every month, Patty Whisler who worked for the City of Seattle, held meetings with all service providers in the neighborhood. The closest food bank at the time was in Fremont and there was a growing need in northeast Seattle. So Patty started looking around at different churches and locations to operate out of. The University Christian Church was so large, they offered their basement space and it just started to grow organically from there. I made a job for myself in a way, I already had an office there and just took this on. 

What was it like gathering the community together in the early days to donate or volunteer?

Patty led this charge. She was a great community leader. She pulled together a board of directors with people from local churches, clubs, the UW and more. It was amazing to see the community come together. We’d get food from Food Lifeline and NW Harvest and were able to start feeding the neighborhood.

How many families a week did you serve?

We were busy right away and quickly became one of the busier locations in the city. KING5 News was there the first day we opened and we started serving maybe a couple hundred families a week. It grew later to 600 families. Welfare reform in the 80s saw numbers increase as well.

What was the biggest challenge to overcome in the beginning?

Before we opened, I had the opportunity to visit other food banks in Seattle and learn so much from those executive directors. So our operations were solid. The biggest challenge in the early days was getting enough food.

I would often drive to NW Harvest to get more food because we were having a hard time keeping up with demand. About a year or two in we received funding from the City of Seattle. We got donations from local businesses in the neighborhood like Safeco Insurance and many others. We had moments of scarcity and then the money or food would appear and always worked out.

We started running a big campus food drive with all departments at UW, which was a huge amount of food. Hundreds of tons were collected. We had supermarket Saturday’s where we’d hand people lists of what was needed. And the more people learned about what we were doing, donors would send in checks, service clubs were sending money. I don’t remember being under-resourced after those first months. The UW provided all of our volunteers; it was a huge part of our success back then.

How has food insecurity changed in Seattle over the last 40 years?

It’s kind of the same story but in a different time. In the ’80s we were seeing a lot of refugees from the former Soviet Union, and we’re still seeing this and serving a large refugee population in our state.

There’s a lot more attention paid to this issue now and new funding to support it. And, of course, the scale of the food banks now with all staff members and larger shopping spaces is much improved. The shopping with dignity model is more available now, though we’ve always been aware of this with our shoppers and respectful. The Seattle Food Committee was mostly women then, it grew to be more men and now it’s younger people.

What is your fondest memory of your time as executive director? 

It was always there to help people. The mom with four kids who calls day-of for a home delivery. I feel like we surprised people and were there to help them. People who came after hours to the church to get food, and I was happy to help them. People were always surprised and happy that we answered the phone, we really wanted to help people, we had resources and lots of food and always did what we could.

One time I received a call from a Food Bank director on Capitol Hill who needed baby formula for a young mother who was mixing flour and water to make formula. I grabbed formula and raced over to Capitol Hill to give it to her. We had things like formula and diapers, we were so well resourced. And to the help people in a variety of circumstances was so meaningful. 

Meet Our Newest Team Members!

Please welcome four new team members to the University District Food Bank! We’re thrilled to have them on board! 

Christine Bagley: Development Coordinator (left)

  1. Your hometown: Seattle
  2. First concert: Janet Jackson at Key Arena
  3. Coffee or Tea: COFFEE
  4. Favorite Pizza Topping/s: pepperoni, onions and mushrooms
  5. Favorite Place to take out-of-towners in Seattle: Olympic Sculpture Park
  6. What are you most looking forward to in your new role at the Food Bank? I’m looking forward to spreading the word on the important work we do at UDFB to more members of the community and working with the auction committee to procure some exciting new items for our event. October 7th.  Save the date!

Chey Costello: Pantry Assistant (middle)

  1. Your hometown: Dallas, TX
  2. First concert: The Spice Girls at Starplex in 1998
  3. Coffee or Tea: Earl Grey with honey and soy milk, followed by several cups of coffee/soy lattes
  4. Favorite Pizza Topping/s: Mushrooms!!!
  5. Favorite Place to take out-of-towners in Seattle: Gas Works for a sunset picnic 🙂
  6. What are you most looking forward to in your new role at the Food Bank? Making new friends and participating in my community!

Kirsten Ourada: Pantry Assistant (right)

  1. Your hometown: Spokane
  2. First concert: Radiohead 
  3. Coffee or Tea: Coffee 
  4. Favorite Pizza Topping/s: jalapeno and pineapple 
  5. Favorite Place to take out-of-towners in Seattle: swimming by the arboretum, to the rooftop bar at the Graduate for the 360 degree mountain and city views (!) or to a show
  6. What are you most looking forward to in your new role at the Food Bank: getting to know the community of staff, volunteers and customers, and the sense of place that comes with that. 

Thomas Bernardi: Pantry Assistant (throwing up peace signs)

  1. Your hometown: Snohomish, WA
  2. First concert: Stevie Wonder
  3. Coffee or Tea: Coffee for sure
  4. Favorite Pizza Topping/s: Ricotta, Sautéed Arugula
  5. Favorite Place to take out-of-towners in Seattle: Volunteer Park
  6. What are you most looking forward to in your new role at the Food Bank? I am most looking forward to learning how to make the food bank an even better space where everyone involved feels welcome and connected to the community.

Volunteer Spotlight: Jud Richards

When did you start volunteering at the Food Bank?

I did volunteer orientation in October 2019 and started working in January or February of 2020, so a little over three years working Mondays and Thursdays each week. After only a month or two of volunteering the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown happened. During the pandemic I continued to volunteer two shifts a week like many other volunteers and we all kept it going, we had no disruption to food delivery. If the food bank was open, I was there. 

What are your typical volunteer responsibilities?

I help with grocery rescue, back of house, and packing supplies for families at Seattle Children’s hospital.

Grocery rescue is all about food security and reducing food waste. I rescue food from PCC in Green Lake regularly and when needed I will fill in for other volunteers or staff and pick up from Trader Joe’s in the U-District, among other retailers

It’s amazing to see how many pounds of groceries are donated from PCC and Trader Joe’s. It really helps to fill our shelves with additional produce, bread, frozen items, canned goods and more. I’ll pick up the food then we sort it, check expiration dates and stock it on the shelves. We also pick up baked goods from local bakeries like Madison Park Bakery, which is nice to offer shoppers locally baked items.

Most of our grocery partners take it very seriously, PCC and Trader Joe’s are both in that camp and they make sure to give us quality items.

For back of the house, I work on stocking the shelves, making sure they are full and ready for shoppers, I help keep our backstock full and organized, and sort produce and grocery rescue items. I’ll also operate the pallet jack as needed, and the cardboard baler to compact all the cardboard boxes and keep the space clean. 

Then once a week I work on grocery packs for Seattle Children’s hospital. We’ll provide several days’ worth of food for patients and families in long term care. They get a list of grocery items we offer and choose what they’d like for the week. We work to have culturally relevant foods as well as offering halal or kosher foods. We’ve served families of up to 8 people with these packs and it can go a long way to help stretch grocery budgets while their children are receiving care at the hospital. 

What is your favorite part about volunteering? 

It’s the people – the volunteers and the customers. The people I’ve met here have great stories and interesting backgrounds, and it makes returning twice a week something I look forward to. 

My background is in tech which is a privileged community of people and I really enjoy the diversity at the Food Bank. I also feel compelled to give back and help others, it’s a good feeling and a big part of why I personally keep volunteering.

Why should others volunteer at the Food Bank? 

Food security is critical these days with a lot of unmet needs in our community. We can all do our part to ensure those needs are met as best we can, and you get to meet some great people along the way. 

What else do you want people to know about the Food Bank community? 

The food bank is really a hub for other services that the city offers, it’s focused on food security but there are vaccine drives, access to literature about available resources, an office phone that customers can use to make calls to family or check in with local agencies. The Food Bank is doing everything within its means to help people. They work hard in good faith and make every attempt to meet someone’s needs. 

Meet Lena our Food Access Program Coordinator

Lena Kabeshita is one of the Food Bank’s three new team members who came to us through our partnership with AmeriCorps. She joined us in October 2021 to manage our two satellite pantries at North Seattle College and Mercy Magnuson and is such an important part of the work we do for the north Seattle community!

Originally from Illinois, Lena was living and interning in Yakima before coming to Seattle. She is a recent college graduate with a major in soil and crop science and a minor in women and gender studies. 

What is your role at the Food Bank?

I am the Pantry Program Coordinator and I manage our two offsite pantries – North Seattle College on Tuesday nights and Mercy Magnuson place on Wednesday afternoons. I’m responsible for ordering food for the pantries, bringing the food over to each pantry and making sure they are running smoothly. I also coordinate 8-12 volunteers per week to help run the pantries.

Why were these satellite pantries created?

The satellite pantries pre-date the pandemic and were created to serve areas of need in North Seattle where there’s not a food bank nearby or affordable grocery stores. The North Seattle College Pantry was intended to support food insecure students at the college, but it has expanded beyond the student community and grown overall to fill a need among additional North Seattle households. In January 2022 we served 50 student households, 9 staff households, and 98 community member households. 

We purchase food specifically for these pantries each week, then set up and break down on Tuesdays and Wednesdays but each runs a little differently. North Seattle College offers prepacked food in bags and then shoppers choose their protein with a drive-through and walk-up service style. Magnuson is more of a shopping model where guests walk through and choose what they want for the week.

How many families do you serve per week? 

In January at Magnuson we served 320 households for the month and in North Seattle we served 229 households for the month. I want to give a big shout out to the volunteers who dedicate time each week to support these pantries. Their work is invaluable, and I couldn’t operate without them!

One of our regular volunteers at our Magnuson pantry passed away in February. His name was John Tuttle and he had been volunteering at Magnuson for the last year. I want to thank him for all his hard work and dedication to our cause, he will be missed by all of us.