Seattle’s Rainier Valley Food Bank

Fighting food insecurity since 1991

Canned food drives that schools hold are useful, but we all know that many people (like me) use the occasion to rid their pantries of less-than-desirable food. That is fine, but we all can do more. The Rainier Valley Food Bank receives donations from school food drives, of course, but also from numerous Columbia City area small businesses, fellow nonprofits, private citizens and philanthropists. They have been operating since May 1, 1991.

One thing I’ve noticed about Rainier Valley Food Bank is the large number of Asian senior citizens from the neighborhood that are always on line. There are elderly people in Seattle – one of the richest cities in the richest empire in world history – who experience chronic food insecurity, and that is a catastrophe. RVFB says “We serve a very diverse community of people from all over the world.” People of all ages and races are facing a hunger crisis. Next year will be worse. Everyone can help. Every contribution counts.

Rainier Valley Food Bank accepts donations of all kinds of food, perishable and otherwise. And we’re talking any kind of food. Processed junk food, like Doritos - it’s still food. It’s better than no food (in my opinion). Want to go to the PCC Market (a supporter of RVFB) and spend $500 on a cart full of expensive organic yuppie delights and donate that? That’s fine too. There are more food insecure people in Seattle right now than at any time since the great depression, when the site of the former Kingdome stadium (and current base of the billionaire-owned publicly subsidized Seahawks and Mariners pro sports franchises) was a homeless camp known as Hooverville.

People. Need. Food. It’s heartbreaking, but, nationwide, millions of people … millions of families and children are experiencing shortages of food. In the richest country in the world.

Food banks need everything, even donations of common household items like toothpaste and dish soap. What Rainier Valley Food Bank really needs, though, is money. Which makes sense. They are running a complex operation in a small space - and that takes money. If you can’t drop off food consider donating. They also need to feed their crew. RVFB is “looking for individually packed lunches for 20-ish people, every Tuesday through Saturday, between noon and 1pm. We are avoiding family/buffet-style lunches to reduce COVID exposure.” Gee - I wonder if the Nirvana Wok concept of donating food in individual serving sized takeout containers would work for these hard-working volunteers? Look for Nirvana Wok to deliver them a spicy lunch in January.

Today we donated a small box of items to the Rainier Valley Food Bank (which is very close to Nirvana Wok world headquarters) with the “don’t just donate crap nobody wants” ethos in mind. Yes - threw some things in there that the family has no interest in eating, like canned green beans, but also some interesting items. Someone will appreciate this stuff. This is a relatively tiny donation - RVFB “fulfills over 6,000 requests for food each month.” That’s not 6,000 meals: that’s 6,000 boxes full of food.

This latest donation contained Trader Joe’s private label condensed portabella mushroom soup, Har Mee prawn flavor ramen, Trader Joe’s madras lentils, Boom Chicka Pop sweet and salty kettle corn, Starkist tuna, a can of Eagle Brand condensed milk, garbanzo beans, Kroger green beans, Tentacles of BBQ Squid, Koon Chun hoisin sauce and jalapeno-flavored Tabasco sauce.

Idea for helping people less fortunate and privileged than yourself during a time of pandemic, political unrest and economic chaos: make a goodie box like this but throw in some fresh sandwiches too. Then drop it off where people are living in tents - an unfortunate and all too common sight in Seattle. Or drop it off at your local food bank.

Rainier Valley Food Bank
4205 Rainier Ave S
Seattle, WA 98118

Processed Junk Food of the Week:
Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken

There is a long list of things from Trader Joe’s – which specializes in private label frozen processed food – that displease me, but some family members insist on shopping there so … fine. We tried Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken recently and … it was a big hit! A very tasty and “authentic” replica of a popular menu item in Chinese-American restaurants. It’s not bright orange, like the kind the kids make me get in the supermarket, and that’s because Trader Joe’s uses no artificial food coloring. Notice that the packaging makes the chicken look more orange that it is in real life. Cook up some steamed rice and this 22 oz package provides a hearty, sort of spicy, sweet and savory meal for three people. Heat the chicken chunks in the oven and the sauce on the stovetop. The fresh scallions that appear on the package don’t exist - we suggest you add your own. Supplementing processed junk food with stuff you have around the house - think adding fresh veggies and some frozen prawns to that block of dried ramen - is a great and healthy concept. Did I say junk food? Trader Joe’s claims there are five servings per package, which is bullshit, and it’s super high in saturated fat, salt and sugar. Tasty, though!

-Alex