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Neighbors helping neighbors in Tacoma’s ongoing food crisis

TACOMA, Wash. — On any given Tuesday in central Tacoma, there’s a line around the block, hundreds long. It’s a glimpse at the city’s ongoing food crisis.

“The pandemic wiped me out. And now we’re just looking for ways to make ends meet,” says Scott.

So, each week, Scott, and nearly 300 more come to the parking lot of Mi Centro.

“We don’t ask for any information at all, whatsoever. It’s just ‘come get your food. Enjoy your community. Come meet people,” says David Thompson.

For Thompson, it’s simple: people deserve fresh food. So, he makes sure that happens.

He founded the Tacoma branch of ‘Food is Free.’ True to its name, a crop of volunteers comes to pass out truckloads of free produce each week.

“Now I can come here and get really great produce. And I’m eating better than ever quite honestly. A lot more fresh vegetables and fruits,” says Scott.

Tuesdays didn’t always look like this, says Thompson. It began as a simple hobby.

“I had a garden that was way too big. I just found a joy in growing stuff. So, I became an urban farmer. I had way too much food. Started to give it away on a little table out in front of my house in 2015. And it’s grown from there,” says Thompson.

The need grew too, for more food to give his food-insecure neighbors. So, he started building more gardens. In total, he built 62 raised-bed gardens, spread around the city.

“I decided to start building gardens in town and trying to encourage other people to garden as well. Because the whole idea is to get people to garden at their house and donate a little extra to the community,” says Thompson.

And it’s worked. Thompson has spent years now, creating a network of Tacoma green thumbs. Gardeners who give back what they grow but don’t need, to feed other families. Sometimes it’s a donation of just a few tomatoes, maybe a single apple. No matter how small, the group will take it and make sure it gets passed out to a local family.

“You can make a little difference in your community just by growing a little bit of food in your backyard,” says Thompson.

Though currently, the community need greatly outweighs their garden donations. Thompson found a fix for that too, by applying for grants to secure extra funding for extra food.

“I love it. I love it,” says Thompson. “It gave me purpose in my life again, certainly.”

The organization has an app, where people can sign up to have their extra produce picked up and donated to those in need.

You can find the link to download the app here.

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