Youth in South Seattle have a new place to sit down and have a hot dinner on Thursday nights.
Teen Feed currently offers nightly meals to homeless or at-risk youth in the University District and Friday-night meals in Auburn. Now it will also serve 13- to 25-year-olds in South Seattle from 7 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays.
“At least for that hour, they have a safe space to be, warm food in their belly and a trusted adult to talk to, if they choose,” said Tabitha Jensen, executive director of Teen Feed. “We can’t replicate sitting around a table with a family, but the best we can do is provide that sense of security, safety and dignity.”
The community-based program, which relies on volunteers to donate, prepare and serve food, is temporarily housed in the South Shore K-8 School and will have a permanent home in the new Rainier Beach Community Center once it opens in the fall.
Through partnerships with Atlantic Street Center (ASC) and Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR), the new location will also offer resources and support for youth.
Staff from both agencies will be on hand during dinners, and SPR will have summer programming until midnight so youth can stay, socialize and participate in activities such as basketball, first-aid training and board games.
The agencies provide services that are part of the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, a multi-agency program established in 2009 to reduce and prevent youth violence.
Jeron Gates of SPR and Ralph Fragale of ASC said they see Teen Feed as an opportunity to establish trusting relationships with youth who could benefit from the resources they offer, including housing, job training, mental health resources or case management.
All participating agencies echoed a philosophy of low-barrier services that don’t push an agenda.
“[Food] is such a fundamental need — to attach any kind of basic requirement feels almost unethical,” Jensen said.