The Meal Deal

Helping ease hunger is a year-round pursuit

We all know what it's like to be hungry. But for runaway teens and the homeless, hunger never fades. From packing sack lunches to delivering dinners to waiting on those who normally can't afford to eat out, Seattle offers a slew of ways you can help fill empty stomachs. Here's just a few:

Food Not Bombs (985-2247): America discards 26 percent of its farm-grown produce because of minor flaws or grocery stores' high shelf-life standards. Fortunately, FNB doesn't let that produce go to waste. On Saturdays, the volunteer-run organization partakes in produce redistribution at Yesler Terrace Community Center, handing out free food. On Sundays, FNB hosts its Congregate Meal, a vegetarian dinner in Occidental Park. Volunteers are needed, and appreciated, for produce pick-up, sorting, preparation, serving, and kitchen cleanup.

El Centro de la Raza (2524 16th S, 329-7960): El Centro de la Raza's Comidas Nutricionales para los Ancianos, or lunch program for seniors, allows volunteers to give back to Hispanic elders. The program provides hot lunches to seniors 60 years old and older, and meals are sometimes delivered to the homebound living in south Seattle. Bilingual volunteers desired.

Compass Center (77 S Washington, 461-7837): A Lutheran organization and a United Way agency, Compass Center has been serving Seattle for 80 years. In addition to offering shelter to the homeless, the center's Hot Meal program dishes out three meals a day to the hungry. Pastor Sue Wanwig says that although volunteer slots for lunch and dinner are booked through the next couple of months, the center could use breakfast volunteers, whose duties include preparation at 6:45am, serving until 8:15am, and optional dish duty until 8:30am. Compass Center does not require providers or recipients to attend religious services.

Operation Sack Lunch (Memorial Wall Plaza, Fourth and Cherry, 360-341-1309): Remember how that brown bag containing a PNB sandwich, green apple, and chocolate chip cookie made you feel when you were a kid? Make someone feel just as loved by volunteering for Operation Sack Lunch, a nonprofit that serves hot meals (Sunday and Monday) and sack lunches (Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday) to the homeless.

Seattle Indian Center (611 12th S #300, 329-8700): Seattle Indian Center's director of community services Shaun Dale says the center has a limited capacity and needs "people we can work with and train." Makes sense, after all, commitment has carried the SIC this far: Founded in 1958, the center has become a "multi-faceted human services agency" that supplies emergency housing, education, employment training, and more to residents of the International District. The Hot Meal program cooks lunch weekdays, serving 100 people per day, from children to elders.

Mamma's Hands (915-2073): Mamma's Mobile Kitchen travels around town, providing those in need with food, clothing, blankets, and (believe it or not) access to cell phones. Apparently, cell phones—and the family and friends they reach—can help get the down-and-out back up and off the streets.

Boomtown Cafe (513 Third, 625-2989): Good news: After temporarily shutting its doors because of finance troubles, the Boomtown is back in business. Executive Director Bob Kubiniek reports that although the nonprofit restaurant received "less public support than we had hoped for," Boomtown has undergone "a bit of reorganizing" so the space can once again serve up healthy specialties, such as lasagna, breakfast burritos, and omelets. Meals cost only $1.25 to $1.75, and Boomtown also accepts food stamps or barter (15 minutes of work time for one meal) as payment. How to help? For those of you continually well-fed diners who visit the establishment, pay what you would at other restaurants—you'll find the food, and the good deed, is worth the few extra bucks.

For a complete list of meal programs in greater King County, visit

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