There are parts of Pioneer Square that smell like piss and garbage, but there are other parts that are okay. I generally dislike going there because I generally end up surrounded by stinkiness and creepy people. But, I was completely broke and had no food, so I thought I’d look up local soup kitchens.
It was Sunday afternoon, and I discovered that Food Not Bombs hosted a Sunday night vegetarian dinner in Pioneer Square. I was nervous and had never been to anything like that, but I showed up anyway.
It was quieter than I expected, but there were a lot of people around eating a variety of foods. There were only a few volunteers, most of whom appeared to be young Seattle punk rockers. They were all very kind and friendly and the food was good. There were plenty fresh, delicious apples (which I saved for breakfast), vegetarian stir-fry, some kind of soup I didn’t have (but it looked like it had chickpeas in it), fruit salad, and a variety of donuts for dessert. I didn’t get much food and felt like asking for seconds but did not. I probably won’t need to return this next weekend, but I may need to in the future, so it’s good to know that a resource is there. I highly recommend going to them if you are in need of a meal. If you aren’t in need, I recommend that you provide food, cooking services, or cooking equipment. There are chapters all over the world. No one wants to be judged for their economic status, so it’s a relief to find groups like this where you can come as you are and still feel welcome.
I made my first trip to a food bank back in late 2004. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I could visit a food bank because I wasn’t homeless and I had resources. I had virtually no income, but I had a cell phone, a car, a home (albeit one filled with black mold), and a credit card. I could not pay my credit card bills, but I had room on my credit card and I had just been charging my groceries week after week. I knew there was a food bank in town, but I had not gone because I just didn’t think I was poor enough.
I was at a friend’s house one day, and I noticed that he had a really odd plastic baggie of coffee. I asked him why his coffee came like that, and he told me he’d gotten it at the food bank. This boy had a nicer house than I did and a job, so I was surprised he was allowed to go to the food bank. After I realized that he was allowed to go, I went myself.
On my first trip, I parked around the corner and left my cell phone in my car. I was actually worried that if they saw me with a cell phone, someone would say “if you can pay your phone bill, how come you can’t buy food?” I was also worried that someone would make a comment about my weight. I’ve had a lifetime of weight management issues exacerbated by severe hypothyroidism, and I was worried someone would mention that I didn’t look like I’d missed any meals.
When I entered the food bank, however, I was surprised by the variety of people there. I saw two people I’d gone to college with, and other people I’d known from around town. Most of the people had cell phones and I don’t think I saw anyone dressed in rags. I was far below their income limit (at the time for that city it was about $1200 a month), and they said I could go once a month. I ordered the vegetarian package and got many foods that I actually would have purchased for myself if I’d had the money. I couldn’t believe all the months I’d been using my credit card to buy necessities I couldn’t afford.
My trips to the food bank helped me save money and pay off some of my credit card bills, and I was in a better situation for a while. I’m in the situation now where even though my salary isn’t that low, I really do not have the resources to buy food. I may be able to get my electricity turned on later this week or possibly next week, but even then, I will try to use food bank services because I am worried about losing my home.