“…if only we are willing to share.”
A ministry of St. Leo Catholic Parish, the Food Connection has been serving residents of Pierce County since 1982. Begun as a small, neighborhood food pantry, our programs have rapidly expanded to become some of the largest emergency food assistance programs in the area. Our mission and belief is that God, out of love for us, has created a world in which there is enough food for everyone, if only we are willing to share.
Responding to the Need in Springbrook
In 2005, the largest food bank in Lakewood suddenly closed. In response, the City of Lakewood’s Community Collaboration formed the Hunger Task Force. Their mission was to formulate a plan that addressed the emergency food needs of low-income families who were no longer served.
After extensive research, the task force determined that the Springbrook neighborhood, because of its isolated geography and high percentage of low-income families, needed a mobile food bank. The Food Connection agreed to launch this program and since April 2006 Springbrook residents can count on reliable food assistance every week at three locations in their neighborhood.
Meeting Students Where They’re At
Childhood hunger is a pervasive problem in our community, with more than two-fifths of Pierce County children relying on Free and Reduced Meal programs at school to get the nutrition they need. Unfortunately, these programs can only reach children at school, leaving them at risk of going hungry at other times.
In 2008, the Food Connection began partnering with a teacher at McCarver Elementary to address this need. The Backpack Program began by sending two days of food home with 50 children each weekend during the school year. Since then, the Children’s Programs have expanded rapidly to serve thousands of children on weekends, after school, on extended vacations, and during the summer.
A Bigger Table and A New Facility
For over a decade, the Food Connection operated from the south side of the Tahoma Hope Center on South 14th and Yakima Avenue. As our programs expanded, this facility could no longer accommodate the need of our community. Our Children’s Programs operated off-site, dividing important resources into two locations. Large equipment like our walk in refrigerators and freezers had reached the end of their life. Our clients had to face non-accessible stairwells, cramped hallways, and limited selection. We needed a new space.
Luckily, this coincided with the opening of New Nativity House. With the bottom floor of the Tahoma Hope Center vacated, the Food Connection was able to begin a renovation and capital campaign. With the financial help of many individuals, foundations, and businesses, the Food Connection was able to open its new facility in the spring of 2016.
Our new space features accessibility ramps, new equipment, a dedicated space for our Children’s Programs, and private, gender-neutral bathrooms. Equally important, the new space has open ceilings, a larger shopping area, and lots of sunlight to provide a welcoming environment for all of our clients.