Connecting with Community Through Service


On a typical mild and cloudy Friday morning in Seattle, people start lining up along King Street in the Chinatown-International District. The majority of the people in line are senior citizens hoping to fill their bags with ginger, bok choy, rice, and additional items the food bank has acquired for the day. Despite the food bank opening at 11am, the line begins to weave around the building long before the doors open. 

The Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) mission is to promote social justice and the well-being and empowerment of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and other underserved communities. They do this through developing, providing and advocating for innovative, effective and efficient community-bases services. Their services include behavioral health and wellness, employment and training, citizenship and immigration assistance, recovery services, child and youth development, and aging services for older adults.

One of the goals of their aging services sector is to provide nutritious food to the community through the ACRS Food Bank. ACRS distributes over one million pounds of food to 5,700 families in King County. They are the only food bank in Washington State that regularly distributes foods that cater to Asian American and Pacific Islander diets. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s Equity and Community Engagement team volunteered at the ACRS Food Bank as a way to connect with the community and support organizations that are providing critical services to people that need them the most.


Half of the Agency’s team spent the morning loading vans with food to distribute to other food banks in the County, while the other half busily organized the piles of food inside the food bank to make sure everything was ready to hand out before the doors opened. Food from noodles, rice, soup, pastries, onions, potatoes, and the coveted ginger and bok choy were on hand.


Once the doors opened and the line flowing down King Street began to dwindle we, at the Agency, reflected on the experience. We appreciated the opportunity to volunteer with ACRS as it allowed us to connect with one of our focus communities in a way that we haven’t done before. It provided us with a deeper connection to the place and the people, and gave us more context to understand the community’s needs.


By Joanna Gangi, Equity and Community Engagement Communications Specialist