Pantry provides space around table for people of all backgrounds
By Abigail Taylor
And not much has changed.
Ballard continues to be a homogenous community, with small increases in diversity. For this reason, raising funds and providing space to talk about diversity are important actions for Brandi Henderson, the owner of Ballard business, The Pantry.
“I grew up in Alabama,” Henderson said. “I was very, very aware of racial issues just from being in the public school system and coming from a racist family and being surrounded by racist white people.”
The Pantry is a community kitchen in Ballard that provides cooking classes and creates space around the table for everyone. With this mission in mind, The Pantry began donating to local and national organizations that promote social justice in 2017.
Henderson always valued racial diversity and fairness but the change in presidential administration in 2016 pushed her to start taking action, she said. She felt that it was time for The Pantry to start providing resources for diverse communities in need.
The Pantry supports social justice by working with 26 local businesses that provide food and supplies for classes, donating monthly to social justice organizations, hosting quarterly fundraisers, hosting events to discuss social justice, and working to educate their staff and community about social justice.
Their quarterly fundraiser proceeds have gone to nine organizations including The Block Project, Creative Justice, Refugees Northwest, and Solid Ground.
“It really does take so many levels of support in this community and so many levels of partnerships,” said Gary Rubin, the giving manager of Solid Ground. “It takes a lot of like-minded people that realize that there are those who are marginalized and that it takes all of us doing what we can do to help those that are less fortunate. Having a partnership with The Pantry just exemplifies how a small business in our community can really help bring people together and also get the word out.”
The Pantry has been working with Solid Ground since 2017 to raise money and create conversations about poverty and social justice.
This year, The Pantry hosted a Community Conversation Supper with Solid Ground to give everyone space at the table to feel safe while talking about hard things, Henderson said. The focus of this supper was to discuss possible solutions for poverty and to understand the people that are most vulnerable, according to Rubin. He felt that this event was successful in opening the conversation and laying the ground for future events that can work to find ways to help end poverty, which Solid Ground believes is a solvable issue.
“Not only does The Pantry believe in this bigger picture of combating inequity but the piece that they provide too, in terms of inequity, how food and health are so important,” said Rubin. “It’s just vital to the sustainability of individuals and our community.”
In 2018, The Pantry began monthly donations to Coyote Central which provides creative classes for children 10 to 15 years old. The funds that Coyote Central receives from The Pantry allow more students to take classes regardless of their financial backgrounds, according to Jen Smoose, Coyote Central operations manager.
The Pantry has hosted dinners for The Block Project, a project by Facing Homelessness, that builds tiny homes in the backyards of sponsors throughout Seattle. As a result of The Pantry’s contributions, The Block Project was able to reach their goal of raising $75,000 which a donor promised to match, according to Jennifer Tee, the programs director for Facing Homelessness.
“The Block Project is community powered,” Tee said. “We have volunteers who help us build our homes. We have homeowners who are volunteering their yards. We have funders who have volunteered to help raise money. That is the way that the Project was designed and The Pantry has contributed to that mission.”
The Pantry’s fundraising and hosting spaces for conversation builds community and allows people to come closer to the problems that impact the Seattle area, according to Tee.
While monetary giving is a large part of the way that The Pantry contributes to a diverse community, their classes also aim to provide for the community. The Pantry’s classes expose people to a diverse range of cuisine, according to Alison Leber, a guest chef at The Pantry and owner of The Roving Cheese Monger.
“Humans and food go together,” Leber said.
Leber said she believes this is important at this time since food and human interactions are becoming less and less frequent, especially since Amazon just opened a grocery store where you don’t have to interact with a human.
The Pantry is currently working to sign a lease for a second space outside of the Ballard community to reach a more diverse client base, according to Henderson. She hopes to continue growing her giving and wants to find more ways to serve the community through her business.