With 5,000 to feed every week, Cherry Street Food Bank seeks new home

After 35 years operating out of their space on 8th Ave and Cherry, the Cherry Street Food Bank is being displaced to make room for a new 30-story condominium tower. They’ve got until March 1, 2019 to vacate, and Northwest Harvest is scrambling to find a new home for their flagship operation which serves an average of 5,000 people a week.

Northwest Harvest CEO Thomas Reynolds considers the Cherry Street Food Bank the “beating heart” of their operations.

“We deliver to others who provide food but Cherry Street is a direct line to our most important stakeholder group: people with lived experience of hunger.” The food bank provides bags of groceries as well as sandwiches and other ready-to-eat meals for people who have no kitchen in which to prepare meals.

The planned tower will rise 30 stories and make space for 200 condo units on land the 126-year-old Trinity Parish has sold the development rights to. The old church building will remain intact and church facilities will take over the first three floors of the planned building, Curbed Seattle reports.

Founded in Seattle in 1967, Northwest Harvest grew out of the civil rights movement with a goal of making the city more livable and an ecumenical conviction that food should be considered a basic human right regardless of gender, ethnicity or economic status. Northwest Harvest now works with 375 food banks in every county in Washington, as well as public schools with high concentrations of low-income students.

Reynolds is appreciative of the 35 years of rent-free operating space Trinity Parish has granted the food bank, and notes that they were given ample notice of possible development plans. As the inevitability of displacement sets in, Reynolds confronts the difficulties of maintaining services for low-income Seattleites in an increasingly gentrified urban core.

“This is the story of Seattle. Most of the people who go to Cherry Street Food Bank are working one, two, even three jobs. We’re seeing a migration of services out of the downtown core, and also a general migration into parts of South King County. That is a function of the unaffordability of Seattle.”

Reynolds is looking for tips on a potential replacement space for the food bank somewhere in the First Hill neighborhood or, failing that, within a mile of the current location. He is running down every lead he comes across but he hasn’t found the ideal space yet, which would be between 8,000 and 20,000 square feet, located near bus lines and accessible to people with mobility challenges.

Northwest Harvest also welcomes financial support to pay for the impending move, and they’re always looking for volunteers to help with day-to-day operations.

Reynolds remains optimistic despite the daunting odds in a neighborhood that has become the domain of high-rise luxury condos. “Right now Seattle is the third most unequal metro area in the US,” he says, “All of us, if we care about the culture and fabric of our city, want to see a less unequal city in the future. I don’t think it’s the end of an era; I think it’s a wake-up call.”

Northwest Harvest is looking for community support in their quest to find a new home for the Food Bank. If you have information on a property, please contact Jordan Rubin at 206.923.7426. If you would like to make a monetary donation to help Northwest Harvest find a new home, please visit northwestharvest.org.

Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

One thought on “With 5,000 to feed every week, Cherry Street Food Bank seeks new home

  1. Sad to hear this but thank you for sharing. I’m glad they were given almost a year to find a new space – let’s hope that one can be found! I’ve volunteered here in the past (it is now easier for me to volunteer at the University District Food Bank instead), and I highly recommend it to anybody that can spare a few hours every month (everyone?). It can be quite eye-opening and really give you a sense for the varying levels of income in this city.