Submitted by A1DesignBuild

Four years ago, Bellingham’s Birchwood neighborhood became a designated urban “food desert.” This occurred when the neighborhood Albertson’s store was closed. However instead of opening another store, Albertson’s chose not to allow another grocery store to occupy the space. They are able to do this thanks to a non-compete clause in its building agreement with the city of Bellingham. This prevents competition with its nearest store, Haggens. They purchased the chain store in 2016 and also own the Safeway chain. That may have been great for Albertson’s and their shareholders, but it quickly had real world impacts for Bellingham’s Birchwood residents.

The USDA defines an urban food desert as a region of 500 people or greater living more than a mile away from a grocery store. Generally, this also coincides with a higher population of lower income residents. Both of these variables indicates a higher barrier to nutritious food.

Thankfully, the Birchwood Food Desert Fighters emerged out of this completely avoidable mess.

Our crew at A1DesignBuild was inspired to be part of this grassroots movement and help distribute free food pantries across the city. These pantries operate similarly to the free neighborhood libraries that have been springing up for years.

People can volunteer to have one installed on their property, and that resident, or others, will fill it with food that is available for those in need.

The Mini Pantry Movement has examples across the country of these boxes, and even how to build your own.

Beautiful food pantry in Wainscott, NY. Photo courtesy A1DesignBuild

We’ve followed their lead and have been building pantries for the neighborhood. Look for our bright A1 green boxes around Birchwood.

If you would like to build your own, click on the drawing below to download.

If you would like to host a Pantry or contribute food to one, you can find a maps of locations HERE and contact information for hosting or volunteering HERE.

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