Partner Spotlight: University District Food Bank

Partner Spotlight: University District Food Bank

University District Food Bank (UDFB) was established in 1983 to serve the growing needs of struggling families in the city due to the rounds of layoffs and looming recession at the time. Today the UDFB serves over 1,300 families in NE Seattle and that number is expected to continue to grow in the coming years.  

After years of planning and fundraising the UDFB moved to its current location on Roosevelt Way NE in 2016, and to say that it’s an upgrade from its former space in a cramped church basement is an understatement. Today when you visit the UDFB you’ll walk into an airy, spacious room with shelves and cases full of the essentials very much like your neighborhood grocery stores.  The new space is not only welcoming with the large windows and lots of natural light, but it is also functional and multi-faceted, allowing them to serve more customers and provide a wide-ranging services beyond providing food.

When you are visiting the UDFB you can’t help but notice the staff and volunteers in every corner of the space. They are constantly in motion and seemingly capable and efficient yet not hasty or rushed. About 80-100 volunteers lend their helping hands each week, taking on many tasks including stocking the food bank, preparing and delivery home delivery boxes.

UDFB takes a holistic approach that addresses the challenges beyond hunger so that their customers can live an independent, healthy and less stressful life. UDFB was the first food bank in the area to implement a grocery store model that allows customers to select items based on their personal needs. This format was designed so that their customers can pick up a variety of items they need to have balanced meals for three days during each visit. The spacious new site also allows for a conference room where the customers can meet with a social worker in private to receive assistance on various topics such as housing, employment and transportation access. There is also a small library section where a selection of children’s books, young adult novels and cook books from local libraries are available.

In addition to the walk-in food bank the UDFB also offers a home delivery service for about 150 home-bound seniors as well as the Packs for Kids program. Packs for Kids provides meals for more than 600 kids at 13 Seattle schools so that they have nutritious food on weekends when school meals are not available.

Perhaps the most impressive addition to the new UDFB site is Rooftop Roots, a spectacular rooftop garden with row after row of raised garden beds that contain a variety of vegetables, fruit and herbs that are not often available through donations. Rooftop Roots is not only a new source of fresh produce for the customers but it also provides an opportunity to empower low-income youth through hands-on gardening education. This year the UDFB staff and the youth program interns hope to grow 3,000-5,000lbs of fresh produce themselves. 

The majority of food available here is donated by local stores and organizations such as Food Lifeline and Northwest Harvest. UDFB stocks everything from fresh produce, bread, dairy products, meats, grains and shelf-stable items as well as toiletries, baby formula and diapers, and pet food. About 70% of the food they serve is donated and the UDFB purchases the rest at discounted price to ensure they can offer nutritious, balanced options. Demand for fresh produce and protein is always high.

City Fruit is proud to support the UDFB by providing fresh, local, organic fruit grown right here in our community. Thanks to our tree owners, volunteers, and donors who support City Fruit’s harvest operations, we have donated hundreds of pounds of fruit to the UDFB over the years including apples, plums, pears and figs- maybe some of them came from YOUR tree! We cherish the idea that the fruit grown in our backyards can help feed others in our community, and that by sharing fruit and being part of this fruit sharing community we are all connected.