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Sustainable Renton Update

Sustainable Renton Update

by Steve Randolph on July 15, 2021

Where We Are Now at Sustainable Renton


 To use the word, “Wow!” to describe what has happened in 2020 into 2021 does not do it justice but it is definitely a word that comes to mind.  In the midst of a pandemic and a country shutdown, we have seen things come to light that we could not have seen before, or if we did, we really did not know what was next. Sustainable Renton, a small non-profit organization formed in 2010, has had the great opportunity to be able to make a difference, working with and for our community.

In years previous to November of 2019 an idea of a free grocery store had been thought of, but it did not have the legs under it to go anywhere, and then one of our members, through his own gleaning project, realized there was more to glean than could be used by the constituents that he was serving alone. We got to work to find a donated, temporary space at a brick-and-mortar building, and the first free grocery store was started.

When Covid reared its ugly head, we were forced to move outside, creating the first drive thru Free Grocery Store. We set up in the parking lot of a local business and commenced to hand out anywhere from 1000 to 3000 pounds of food each week, it was great! Then phase 2 came along and we needed to give the parking lot back to businesses who were trying to reopen, thanks for the time we had! This prompted a new move. With feelers out in the community for a new location, the call was answered by St. Matthews Church in the Renton Highlands neighborhood, and on July 6th, 2020, we had our first event.

We needed help though as this event was taking off, and it felt like we were just along for the ride. When we asked for help from the people to purchase a refrigeration truck, the people came through. We have a truck that has been filled to the gills with food for others. As of July 2021, we now have not missed but 2 Mondays, one to Covid scare, and one to just take a break. We have never had less than 100 cars, plus walk ups each and every Monday, and have seen up to 190 cars on one night. Some of these cars can serve multiple families. So, the numbers have exponentially grown beyond imagination.

We now exchange anywhere from 15 to 30,000 pounds in a single night, and at the end of July 2021 will have handed out 1 million pounds of food, with over 7000 cars plus, at our drive thru, resulting in over 31 thousand families served. Stats show 92% are Renton residents, with 63% of those in 98056 zip codes, and the balance in other Renton zip codes, with the rest in surrounding areas such as North and south Seattle. 

Our patrons include the elderly on fixed incomes, families working 2-3 minimum wage jobs, disabled, homeless, it does not matter, nobody is turned away, and all you need to do is show up, provide us with a zip code only, and if you don’t have a zip code, we’ll help you find one, oh and sit in sometimes a long line, which we are working to streamline every week.

(The Ask)

Our growth is strong and demanding of time and resources, such as our immediate need for a forklift and walk-in freezer unit. We have found a forklift-a new, off-brand for $22,000 on a 6mo, rent-to-own program. This forklift will be used every Monday to move a 1000, Washington state boxes of produce, 300 boxes of dairy/meat combo all in addition to the tens of thousands of pounds of gleaned and self-stable items that come to us weekly.

Along with the gleaned foods, we get meats, ice cream, and other frozen meals plus ice from our ice make, that we currently do our best to store in 6 small freezers that labor intensive and not efficient, hence the walk-in freezer at around $11,000 can solve those issues.

The bottom line is we are asking for your help with donations. We are a 501c3 organization, operating only with a volunteer base, which have been amazing. This free grocery was needed pre-covid, and we have the numbers to show that, as we did very little advertising and the lines were long.

This is only about the people, all people! Almost everyone has experienced a need in their lives at one point or another, when a little help was needed which is why this work is so important.

Please visit our web site, www.sustainablerenton.org and hit our donation link, you can like us on Facebook. If you would like to email us at sustainablerenton@gmail.com we would gladly help with other means of donating. Please note, we are a growing organization. The forklift and freezer box are not our only needs, in addition we could use assistance with such things, as grant writing, web design, monies for monthly expenses, fuel, insurance, maintenance, etc.

 Lastly, we do not have to have a hunger problem, but it exists. As a parent, we would do anything to feed our families, and this just makes it a little easier, with your help. There are so many to thank, it would take way more pages, so one big thanks need to go out to all of you, past, present and future.

Steve Randolph