Food is Free: Growing a community

The Food is Free Project hopes to provide food for the community this year by creating three large community garden structures.

Food is a human necessity. However, as the US Census reports, 26 million Americans go hungry every day. That is one in eight American adults and one in six for families with children. In Tacoma, 18.3% of families in the Tacoma School district claim they are food insecure. To help combat the disparity, the Food is Free Project arose. 

This global movement is focused on growing and sharing food. Volunteers place their excess food on a sharing table in their front yard for passersby to take at no charge. Moreover, the project is also providing resources for building and maintaining gardens. Since its establishment, over 200 cities have started Food is Free Chapters. 

We were able to speak with David Thompson, the Director leading our local community chapter and the founder of the Tacoma Urban Farm. Thompson shared his motivation to create Food is Free Tacoma.

“I had a big overflow from my garden, at the time it was 2000 sq. feet … and it was hard to give away. I had my family try to pick stuff up but they were inconsistent so I ended up with a lot of stuff,” Thompson said. “Then I found Food is Free on Facebook and thought it was pretty neat, pretty simple, so I put a table up in about 2015, and here we are now.”

Officially launching in Feb. 2020, Food is Free Tacoma will partner with Harvest Pierce County and EastWest Food Rescue to combat environmental injustice.

In the past year Food is Free Tacoma has installed over 35 street garden beds in the city, 20 of them during the pandemic.

While working with the food rescue, they have saved over 800 tons of food from going into the landfill since May 2020. Through Harvest Pierce County, they have gleaned and picked fruit for the community. Although it has been a busy year, Thompson remarked they have more planned for 2021.

“Well [for this year], I want to create three large garden projects. We have two in the works right now, and we are looking for a third one,” Thompson said.“What we are looking to do is to do a large community garden like structure where all the food would be given away either through all our sharing tables or possibly a table at the site.” 

However, FFT’s plans for the new community gardens structures are currently tentative.

“We are still working on how it looks … Everything will be produced by volunteers and everything produced will be given to the community, alongside our street gardens that we will continue to maintain,” Thompson said. 

Through the Food is Free Tacoma Facebook page citizens can also find notifications of daily pop-up tables offering free food. While garden produce is the main focus, the project also encourages the sharing of excess canned and packaged food, drinks and snacks.

For many local families the Food is Free project provides nutritional resources that are challenging for them to obtain otherwise.

“The distribution has been quite humbling,” Thompson said. “Thousands of people show up to get food from us in the last six months … People have [come] up to thank us for putting food on their table and [tell us] how important it has been for them … We were just happy to be in the right time and doing the best we can to give back to our community.”

Food is Free is an open-source project. In the Tacoma chapter, all table managers are required to be certified with a food safety card. Once interested parties send an email with their certification attached, they will be recognized under the Food is Free Tacoma umbrella. As part of the project, Food is Free Tacoma will put you on their map and register you with the Pierce County Health Department.

For those interested in more information about the project, visit their website,, or contact Thompson at 253-677-8848.