Thurston County Food Bank is building Lacey’s Farm Stand and Pantry at 7027 Martin Way E. The project is an innovative and collaborative response to the City of Lacey’s “Compassionate Community” campaign. Along with exploring the concept of compassion and celebrating where it already exists, the city, and their campaign partners, the North Thurston School District and the Lacey South Sound Chamber look for ways to help others. “We were the first Compassionate Community project selected,” says Judy Jones, who works in Development at the Thurston County Foodbank.

About a quarter of Olympia Food Bank customers are Lacey residents. “It makes sense to build a facility close to the people who need it,” Judy explains. The Lacey location is on a bus route along a major thoroughfare, and will also include plenty of room for parking.

“We’re calling it a Thurston County Community Campus, because it is so much more than a food bank,” says Judy. “It really is a different way of looking at collaborating and connecting with a community. We’ve never collaborated and partnered in something as comprehensive and diverse as this on one site. We think that is pretty unusual.”

The project has three main components, divided into three development phases.

Lacey Food Bank GRuB Garden
Phase 1 of the project, in partnership with GRuB, included creating a space for a therapeutic garden for Veterans at the back of the property. Photo credit: Lauri Martin

Phase 1: GRuB Victory Garden space

At the very back of the long, narrow, 1.3-acre property is a designated garden space leased to Garden Raised Bounty (GRuB). “It’s the home of their Victory Garden, which is a therapeutic garden for veterans,” Judy shares. “The Victory Garden had lost its lease, so they were without a designated committed garden.” Now GRuB will have a garden space for as long as they want it.

Phase 2: Lacey’s Farm Stand

Trends in what is available in the food stream and an enthusiastic response to fresh produce by Thurston County Food Bank clientele have led to creating a farm stand at the front of the property. “There is more and more produce available,” says Judy. “We get quite a bit of produce from our grocery rescue program, our gleaning program, from farms and gardens people are growing. Kiwanis has three gardens and all of the produce they grow is for us. That’s over 30,000 pounds a year.” Through connections in Eastern Washington, they realized there was a potential to access and redistribute even more produce by the truck load.

Laceys Food Bank Farm Stand Entrance
“We really wanted it to reflect the culture of the local community,” Judy Jones of Thurston County Food Bank. “We wanted it to blend in with Lacey and Lacey’s growth and development.” Photo credit: Lauri Martin

“It’s our continued focus on healthier, nutritiously dense food landing in people’s homes and on their tables,” Judy notes.

Lacey’s Farm Stand will be open Saturdays starting early summer 2019 and offer free produce.

Phase 3: Lacey’s Pantry

At the center of the property will be a food pantry. The design concept is for the building to look like an old-fashioned general store. “We are still working on developing as we raise funds and keep moving the project forward,” says Judy. “That middle building design has been created and the permitting is in process.” The food pantry will function much like the client service center in downtown Olympia as a place where people can come weekly or monthly to receive food.

Lacey Food Bank Carrie Ziegler Sculpture
Sculpture in progress by Carrie Ziegler. What is the impact of food waste? “We are excited that something as unusual as public art has crossed the intersection of food waste, feeding people, and access to food,” says Judy Jones of Thurston County Food Bank. Photo credit: Carrie Ziegler

Art and the Impact of Food Waste

As part of a grant from the Washington Department of Ecology, the new food bank will include a sculpture by local artist, environmental educator, and Community Engagement Specialist, Carrie Ziegler. “We wrote a grant around the idea of wasting less food,” Judy shares. “Carrie led a series of workshops in the schools and at the Client Services Center, encouraging folks to think about what food waste does to our community and the world.”  The sculpture concept came out of those workshops.

“Funding for this project has been as diverse as the partners,” says Judy. “Again, I think that speaks to the uniqueness and collaboration of the endeavor.” Funding has come from city, state, and federal programs. “Two local banks, Heritage Bank and Olympia Federal Savings, have made significant contributions to this project because they are supportive of their local community,” she adds. “This project has been a conduit to resources and support. We are enthusiastic about the level of commitment. From the top down and the bottom up, people are very excited about us taking the lead on this. But really it is about the Lacey community and presenting something that is vibrant and useful and needed.”

One of the most heartwarming sources of funds came from the North Thurston Public Schools. The district set a goal to raise $10,000 through a coin drive. “That was quite unexpected,” says Judy. “They thought that was a lofty goal in pennies and nickels and dimes and spare change out of the couch,” she adds, “but they ended up raising $27,000.”

The new food bank property will be welcoming and inviting, a destination point. They hope clients will feel comfortable to stay, and enjoy the space as a destination point.

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