Another hole is opening in the Greenwood neighborhood, besides the one blasted into the business district by a natural-gas explosion. This one may be harder to fill.
But when signs went up on a popular Greenwood joint, announcing that the last day after 25 years will be March 31, a part of Seattle sure noticed.
Like Maria, a mom of two who has been going to 90th and Greenwood Avenue North on Wednesdays off and on for years.
“It’s my backup place, my stopgap,” she said. She didn’t want me to print her last name, she said, due to embarrassment. “I’m there to feed my kids. On Wednesdays there isn’t a busier place around.”
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What’s closing — as if the North Seattle neighborhood hasn’t been through enough — is the Greenwood Food Bank. It offers free food and toiletries to about 2,000 poor households a month. The signs announcing the closure are printed in six languages.
Last year the food bank lost its $53,000 in annual support from the City of Seattle. The city denied the appropriation when the Greenwood Food Bank didn’t make the cut in a new, competitive bidding process.
“It was a shock to us, to have the city zero out the money completely,” says Mark Johnson, of Volunteers for America, which runs Greenwood and five other food banks in Western Washington. “It meant that we were looking at operating at a deficit, every year going ahead.”
Instead, Johnson said his agency is selling the land and the one-story brick building to a developer. He didn’t know what would take the food bank’s place. The land is zoned for commercial developments up to 40 feet high.
The city’s human-services department did not say precisely why Greenwood’s funding was cut. But a staffer forwarded me the city’s new competitive bidding process, which ranks food banks on a series of criteria to determine if grants are being used efficiently.
Johnson says the food bank was rated lower because of its mortgage payments, which increased the cost per person served.
Sabrina Jones of the Seattle Food Committee, a food-bank network, said Seattle cut support to three food banks, though Greenwood was the biggest. She said it’s the only major food bank north of 45th Street in the northwestern quadrant of the city. Volunteers for America does run a smaller one about 40 blocks north, and is working to transition Greenwood-area families to that bank and others nearby, such as one in Ballard.
“We’ll be able to fill in somewhat with other food banks,” Jones said. “But it’s hard to see how it isn’t going to mean less food for some of these families.”
The area already suffers from “a huge misconception that North Seattle is more well-to-do than it really is,” she said. “This is going to leave a hole.”
Of course Greenwood is the same neighborhood struggling with filling a physical hole, one torn into its downtown this past week by a natural-gas explosion.
The blast zone is a few blocks from the food bank. The devastation is more staggering in person than it appeared on TV news. Not only were sturdy buildings reduced to toothpicks, but somehow the blast shattered windows of businesses for blocks around.
A fundraising sign on the block says: “Greenwood is resilient, Greenwood is strong.”
It sure seems to be. The sound of power drills and saws drowned out the patter of rain on Friday. I saw people greet each other in the streets and sometimes hug. Two gofundme sites have raised $40,000 and $25,000 in private donations for the businesses and workers.
At the food bank, more than 400 people would file through during Wednesday open hours. Maria told me the thing that gets you is that it’s families like hers, lots of old folks on fixed incomes, plus some people working jobs. Greenwood people.
“I’m always surprised at how many,” she said.
I feel for Greenwood right now. Too many holes opening up at once.