Auburn Food Bank officially opens new home

The move gives the food bank about five times as much space.

Auburn’s movers and shakers began talking about the move more than 20 years ago.

Talking, planning and fundraising persisted over the years through various bumps and starts — among them the great recession of 2008, the COVID pandemic, and by the fall of 2023, an $800,000 shortfall that threatened to knock the legs out from under the project.

But on Wednesday morning, March 20, a smiling Auburn Food Bank Director Debbie Christian took an outsized pair of scissors in hand in the parking lot of what had for years been the Sports Page Tavern at 2804 Auburn Way North and finally cut the ribbon on the agency’s new digs.

“I’m overwhelmed, obviously,” said Christian, scanning the lot with a smile. “We didn’t know how many people to expect, certainly not this many. I would have been happy with 50. Looks to be 200 people here.”

The crowd included many who had stepped up in big and small ways over the years to make the day happen, from King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer, Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus, former Mayor Pete Lewis, city councilmembers past and present, food bank board members and volunteers, contractors, architects and more.

And who knows, perhaps out there was the anonymous businessman who stepped forward last November at perhaps the project’s darkest hour with an $800,000 check that lifted the food bank over its final hurdle. The donation fully covered the cost of the food bank’s relocation to its new home so it could move in and pay its contractor.

“I’ll keep his name secret til the day I die, unless he chooses to reveal it,” Christian said.

“It’s been a long time coming for the Auburn Food Bank to have this move to a bigger facility to help address the needs of a growing community,” said board member Ray Vefik. “I want to thank the community for stepping up and doing a fantastic job to help us get to this stage.”

The food bank has been at 920 8th Place Northeast in the Burndale Housing Complex in north Auburn for decades, but the paucity of space cramped its ability to serve a growing community.

Indeed, the food bank had been maxed out of capacity for many years. The move gives it about five times as much space, with the capacity to receive larger donations of food and added room to serve, said Christian, who has been involved with the agency for 23 years, 17 of them as its director, and six years before that as a member of the board.

While everyone worked and waited for the big day, Christian continued, staff at the cramped facility kept running into each other, beset not only by problems with warehousing space, but by constant issues with geezering equipment like its old freezer.

Work there started in earnest on Thursday morning.

What it means is about fives times as much space for Christian and her crew to work in — including an expedited path from door to refrigerator and better service for the food bank’s clients, amid many other benefits.

Christian is particularly thrilled that the space allows pallet jacks inside to lift what had formerly required manual lifting, and to bring deliveries right into the new freezers.

The total improved area in the former Sports Page Tavern sums to 14,631 square feet, divided between 6,899 square feet for the food bank at the south end (where the tavern was) and the newly combined resource center and night shelter, with 3,741 square feet and 3,991 square feet, respectively, on the other side of the food bank’s north wall. The night shelter will accommodate 45 cots.

“We know that everything Debbie puts her mind to comes to fruition, just like with this building,” said Mayor Backus.

Board of directors member Ann Beurskens was never in doubt it would happen.

“Yes, because of Debbie,” said Beurskens.

Debbie Christian, executive director of the Auburn Food Bank, 2804 Auburn Way N. Photo by Robert Whale/Auburn Reporter

Debbie Christian, executive director of the Auburn Food Bank, 2804 Auburn Way N. Photo by Robert Whale/Auburn Reporter