It’s a new year, there are a lot of hungry people out there, and for once I’m not talking about myself. Hunger is a local issue, even here in dependably liberal Seattle. But who knew? Until this summer I’d never been to any of our city’s half-dozen food banks, including the largest on Cherry Street, which is two blocks from my workplace. My first glimpse of the food bank came while delivering a couple bags of our community garden’s produce — lettuces, radishes, squashes. While I waited for staff to weigh our contribution, I watched a steady stream of people picking up various items like loaves of bread and canned soups and beans, and the moment our garden produce hit the bins, people moved in. That’s when I realized that food “bank” is a misnomer. Little gets stored, because there’s so much immediate need.

I came back to Cherry Street many times during summer and fall with extra beans and chard my patch was producing, plus the kale, mustard greens, turnips, leeks, and ever-plentiful squash from the donation plot, which is cultivated by a couple of uber-dedicated volunteers. Every time I brought stuff in, our veggies went right into the hands of hungry folks, and while the contributions I delivered couldn’t have totaled more than fifty pounds, Seattle’s community gardeners in sum contributed 24 tons of fresh organic produce last year. About one-third of these gardeners are donating once a month, and here’s something really amazing: of gardeners at the Yesler Terrace Ballpark patch, which is adjacent to public housing (and presumably gardened by its occupants), every person shared their crops on a weekly basis.

There’s something to live up to in 2008.