Wednesday, June 28, 2017 This Week's Paper

East Side food bank vandalized

// Coordinator says damage has escalated; safety called into question

A controversial East Tacoma food bank that serves nearly 1,500 people per week has been the target of vandalism.

Since Easter, volunteers at the Eloise Cooking Pot Food Bank located on McKinley Hill have been dealing with broken windows, stolen signs and graffiti painted on the bank’s delivery truck. Most recently, vandals stole batteries from the truck and broke the bank’s glass front door.

“I think it’s escalating,” said Ahndrea Blue, the bank’s owner. “Now resources will have to be diverted from the people we serve.”

The bank has been a source of controversy since early this year. Some residents expressed concerns to city officials about whether the food bank, which is located in the neighborhood’s commercial district, is properly zoned. The bank relocated there after residents complained when it was operating out of a residential garage.

In March, Tacoma City Councilmember Marty Campbell held a community meeting about the food bank with business owners, clients and residents. Since then, Blue says, she and the food bank have been under weekly attack since Easter.

“The food bank is not here for me, it’s here for the community,” she said.

Blue said the escalating attacks make her concerned for the safety of her volunteers, clients and surrounding businesses. She believes the attacks are personal against her, but she has no guesses as to who the vandals are. Blue said she is open to talking to the party responsible for it.

“This is not working,” Blue said. “They are impacting me emotionally and financially, but they are really hurting the people we serve.”

Although need has grown, Blue said her ultimate goal for the food bank is to move clients from needing assistance to economic independency. The average client receives help from the food bank for about four months, she added.

“Maybe that’s the issue,” she said. “Maybe some people don’t like the fact that there’s more people in this community who need food. The need is tremendous in East Tacoma.”

Blue has filed police reports about the incidents. So far, Tacoma Police Department has two reports on record but officers’ chances of solving the case looks low, according to department spokesman Mark Fulghum.

“There has been other vandalism around the area besides the food bank,” he said.

At this point, Fulghum said it is hard to tell if someone is unhappy with the food bank’s location or if someone is targeting random neighborhood buildings.

“There’s no comprehensive plan in place at the moment, but it’s something we’re looking into,” he added.

Blue plans to keep the food bank open and continue weekend deliveries to elderly residents in the neighborhood. She will also meet with the food bank’s advisory board this week to discuss how to move forward.

“I don’t want to give up,” Blue said. “I want the vandals to stop and think about what they are doing. They might have a personal problem with me, but they are impacting a lot of people. As members of the community, vandalism won’t be tolerated from anyone.”