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City of Seattle

January 18, 4:06 PM click here to comment > 5

Continuing our work to help the hungry

This post is by Dannette R. Smith, Director of the Seattle Human Services Department

Here in Seattle, we are committed to ending hunger and helping get meals to people who need it. Each year, the City of Seattle spends more than $30 million to prevent and end homelessness, including “emergency food” programs such as meals programs and food banks. We have worked hard to protect funding for these services and programs. Working with Mayor Mike McGinn, we crafted a budget that preserved human services funding. When the federal government cut $1.2 million in funding to human services programs, we quickly found ways to backfill those cuts and maintain our services.

We measure our community by how we serve those in need. The Outdoor Meal Program, operated by OPERATION: Sack Lunch, is currently located on property leased to the City by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) under Interstate 5 at 6th Avenue and Columbia Street, serves more than 3,000 meals a week (Sunday-Saturday) at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and more than 156,000 a year. The program has been serving meals at that location since January 2007. OPERATION: Sack Lunch has provided meals to vulnerable populations in Seattle with dignity and humanity for over 20 years. Beverly Graham has done excellent work bringing together fourteen partner organizations and volunteers to help feed the hungry, and I am grateful to her for her continued dedication to this work.

However, the current location of the program is not ideal. The City does not have long-term control over the use of the property, and we believed it made sense to look for a place where we could ensure a stable, long-term presence for programs to feed the hungry. That’s why the Seattle Human Services Department began working with OPERATION: Sack Lunch to explore relocating meal service to several other possible locations.

We know it’s important that this move be done correctly, in a way that best serves the hungry, and in a way that honors and respects the work that service providers have been doing to help people in need. We are going to take the time needed to work with OPERATION: Sack Lunch to find an appropriate location. We will relocate the outdoor meal program only when we know that alternative venues are in place to serve the same number of people who currently are served by the outdoor program. The alternative location must also allow meals to be served outside to those who feel uncomfortable coming inside. Our goal is to provide food to those who need it, no matter where they wish to be served.

We remain willing to work with OPERATION: Sack Lunch and the 14 other organizations that provide outdoor meals to find the best way to feed those who are in need.

Dannette R. Smith
Director, Seattle Human Services Department

Posted by: Robert Cruickshank


Comment from Kanti
Time January 18, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Thank you Mayor McGinn,
I request a most benevolent outcome for locating the perfect spot for this wonderful program!

Comment from Rich Knox
Time January 19, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Getting food to hungry people is a necessity. An “ideal” location is nice to have. Understand the difference. The city may have had the best of intentions, but this has been handled clumsily.

Comment from devon beck
Time January 19, 2012 at 9:30 pm

I can’t begin to explain how angry Danette Smith’s above comments make me. If she really cared about the vulnerable populations she says she does, why did it take a public outcry for her to finally realize that OSL and its clientele deserve the respect that she is finally giving them? For someone who has been in this field for so long, she doesn’t seem to have a clue how things work in Washington State. I’m not sure how things were done in Georgia, but here in Seattle, we operate on a non denominational as you need basis–we respect the rights and feelings of those that can’t help themselves. Using the words “undignified, inhumane, and disrespectful,” to describe OSL service is more than insulting. She says that she chose those words to describe her own journey and how “other people may feel.” If someone in her position hasn’t actually talked to any of the population that this organization supports with the smallest fraction of the city’s budget, and is only using her own experience to base her judgement on, why is she still doing the job she is paid $140,000 to do so? Danette Smith seems like she is doing more harm than good. OSL costs the city less than Ms. Smith actually earns in an entire year. Judging on the evidence, OSL does the city and it’s people exponentially more the job for the same amount of money. I find it disgusting that someone with her position would have to be pressured into doing what is clearly not only the right thing, but is the economical thing to do as well. Ms. Smith needs to rethink what her priorities are–serving the actual people of Seattle or who she thinks they are. Wake up and do the job you are paid very handsomely to do–or you may be joining those in need of OSL services. Mayor Mcginn, this is on you. If you continue to sit and watch our most vulnerable citizens be treated this way, don’t be surprised when you are treated the same at the polls. This is something that can be fixed. The first step is to find someone that cares and understands those that they serve. So far, Danette is not that person. Please rethink the city’s overall reaction to this issue and realize that what is currently happening was the right approach all along.

I would appreciate any comments that you or your staff have in response.

Thank You,

Devon Beck
206 683-9510

Comment from Amy Hoffman
Time January 26, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Thank you for honoring both those who need and enjoy the meals served and those who do the serving. People who “lay down their lives for their brother and sisters” are community heroes, and we need to do all we can to support their efforts – especially when this is a free service that helps meet a huge need- no city tax dollars involved.

Comment from Fred James
Time April 12, 2012 at 4:44 am

Health foods are very much in the news these days, but sometimes people just don’t know which one to go for. I’ve heard that Wheatgrass is a very good superfood, so if you want to know more (and perhaps get some recipies and more data) then can I suggest you check out