When asked why she thinks growing and giving is important, Sally, a gardener at the Hawkins P-Patch has an elegantly simple answer: reciprocity.
“One summer, an unidentified neighbor left a bag of potatoes on my porch. It was a gesture that made me inexplicably happy, and I thought ‘why wouldn’t this make other people happy?’—especially those who don’t have access to a garden, or healthy food.”
And so, for the past four years, Sally and her co-gardeners Hope and David have coaxed three raised beds into productivity; a bounty of kale, cherry tomatoes, beans, and chard going to The Food Bank @ St. Mary’s in the Central District.
Sally is not alone in her motivation for growing and giving. Reciprocity is a concept that resonates deeply within the food bank and gardening communities, and can be observed profoundly at the Providence Regina House Food Bank in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood. On any given distribution day, dozens of neighborhood volunteers—young and old—mill about helping unload trucks, bag peppers, make signs, and wash produce. They joke with each other as they work, talking with friends, and entertaining children.
As Paige Collins, director of the Providence Regina House Food Bank explains, many of her volunteers are current or past clients. They are both the people the food bank serves and those doing the serving. The South Park community has taken ownership of their food bank—they have made it a comfortable, fulfilling place to volunteer, valued by the community.
In food banks and at gardens across the city, reciprocity is a driving force. Whether it’s a bundle of kale, a bouquet of chard, or a bag of potatoes, Sally, Hope, David, Paige, and countless others know the personal value of good produce, and are doing what they can to share it with others.
After all, what is happiness if not a sun-ripened tomato?