Janie Morris was fairly skipping with delight as she loaded 35 canvas bags with produce and gifts then toted them to the Broadway Farmers Market's wagons.
On the last day of the season, vendors were shining with Tacoma spirit, sending some of their best wares to the people who need it most – the clients of Tacoma Adventist Community Services Special Dietary Needs Food Bank at 3108 E. Portland Ave.
That's a mouthful, and the contents of the bag added up to a meal-full.
“It's a lovely little dinner on us,” said Morris, Tacoma Farmers Markets' executive director, as she sorted the contents of one Get Fresh With A Local tote.
She found honey, soap, sippy cups, toothpaste and hand-knit hats, and vegetables fresher than in any store.
“Look, dried beans in a jar for bean soup, with a recipe,” she said. “Kale, onions, garlic, apples and carrots. We had a group get up this morning and harvest 35 bunches of carrots.”
Those beta carotene delivery systems came straight from two East Side community gardens: Green Thumb, just across Portland Avenue from the food bank, and Rogers Park, up the high hill behind it.
Both gardens share with food banks during the growing season, but the fresh produce is especially important to the Seventh Day Adventist bank according to director Ron Ringering and 15-year volunteer Lori Thorne.
“We serve diabetics, cancer patients, people with AIDS, heart patients and the terminally ill, anyone with special dietary needs,” Thorne said.
“We started 25 years ago and served 50 families that first year,” said Ringering.
He's a numbers guy, and rattled off the stats: “In September we gave 83,787 pounds of food to 4,551 people. Last fiscal year we served 44,722 people 802,681 pounds of food. The in-kind value of our volunteers was $191,478, and the food value was $1,332,450.46.”
That food comes in from Emergency Food BankNetworkstores with surplus, and the neighbors' gardens.
The money, including grants from The Puyallup Tribe and, lately, the $450 Thorne made at a yard sale, helps pay expenses, including the $1,000 a month it costs to run the refrigeration system.
The labor comes from volunteers, including tribal members and Pastor Ed Wren's Biker Tabernacle Church.
“We are able to feed the boys who come in to help,” said Thorne.
“It's community,” Ringering said. “We're trying to focus on healthy food, but it's a burden for anybody in that area to get good, healthy food. We've had an increase in diabetics, and a decrease in donations.”
That is why he beamed as he wheeled the market's wagons toward his van.
“Well look at the fresh produce. It looks like 35 families will get fresh food. How often do they get something like this? They couldn't afford to shop at this farmer's market. We're going to take it back and give it away right away.”
That's what he did, and, thanks to their neighbors at the gardens and their friends at the market, those 35 families enjoyed a main dish of Tacoma spirit.