A shovel uprooting fresh soil symbolically marked the beginning of phase two on the Lacey Food Bank project that has been in the works for over ten years. Smiling Lacey city council members, elected officials, business leaders, community members and school children showed up in support of what’s being called a “Compassionate Community” project, involving the combined efforts of the City of Lacey, North Thurston Public Schools, and the Lacey South Sound Chamber.

The groundbreaking took place on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 with speeches from Lacey Mayor Andy Rider, Director of the Thurston County Food Bank Robert Coit, Superintendent of North Thurston Public Schools Deb Clemens, and President of the Lacey South Sound Chamber Graeme Sackrison.

While the humble property doesn’t look like much now, there are big plans in the works for the abandoned lot off of 7027 Martin Way E that used to serve as Colonial Meats. The Thurston County Food Bank spent $600,000 to acquire the property and the total projected budget is $2.5 million, divided into three phases, the first being the finalization of the purchase of the property.

The second phase is currently in motion and will focus on the development of a community garden program and farm stand in partnership with the nonprofit Garden-Raised Bounty (GRuB), which will eventually be tended by veterans.

Lacey Food Bank Vision
A sketch of what the future Lacey Food Bank will look like, due to open in late 2019. Photo courtesy: Thurston County Food Bank

The last phase will be the construction of a 10,000-square-foot food bank building. Coit says they hope to have permits secured by September 2018 with the food bank up and running by late 2019. Upon completion, the Lacey Food Bank will be open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, with an estimated 15,000 individuals being served.

The idea for a food bank in Lacey spawned due to an 11 percent increase in usage at the Food Bank’s Client Services Center in downtown Olympia. According to a marketing document provided at the groundbreaking ceremony, the Thurston County Food Bank served 15,851 households and 55,626 individuals in 2017 alone, a 2 percent increase over 2016. Currently 22 percent of the people using those services live in the Lacey city limits.

Lacey Food Bank Lacey City Council
City of Lacey Mayor Andy Rider breaks ground with fellow council mates at the Lacey Food Bank Groundbreaking Ceremony on June 12, 2018. Photo credit: Marta Helpenstall

According to Courtney Schrieve, executive director for North Thurston Public Schools, five North Thurston schools reported free/reduced meal participation rates in excess of 50 percent. “We also have an alarming number of homeless students,” she adds. “Having a food bank in our district will be a convenience for these kids and their families, allowing them to get by until the next paycheck.”

The North Thurston Public Schools are no stranger to fundraising, but instead of the usual food drive, Schrieve says they came up with the “Make a Change” coin drive to help raise money. “We raised over $27,000 – nearly three times our goal!” Schrieve shares. “We had kids donating their birthday money, cleaning out coins under their couches. This is their project and it was a huge success.”

Clemens and the students from Lydia Hawk Elementary presented a check to Coit and the Food Bank at the groundbreaking ceremony for $27,094.12, raised solely from the efforts of North Thurston Public School’s coin drive in 2017.

Lacey Food Bank School Kids
Robert Coit, Director of the Thurston County Food Bank, received a check from Lydia Hawk Elementary students from the 2017 coin drive. Photo credit: Marta Helpenstall

There’s no doubt that with the collective efforts of such passionate individuals, the new food bank, garden, and farm stand will surely be a beautiful improvement to a community that would greatly benefit from its services.

“This site will reflect community values, such as environmental awareness, how we deliver social services in a respectful way, and how our community as a whole can put all of its resources and energy behind one initiative to make a difference,” Coit says. “That’s what this is about.”

To learn more and to donate, visit the Thurston County Food Bank website.

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