Renton non-profit provided free groceries to those in need every week since the pandemic began

Paying for food can be a struggle for some people in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of the shutdown in Washington, a nonprofit in Renton has dedicated its resources to serving those in need.

Sustainable Renton offers a drive-through grocery store every Monday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Each week, as many as 70 cars are already in line before the drive-through even opens.

This time, Rebecca Rich came four hours early to make sure she was first.

"Oh man, when they have asparagus here, we love it!" said Rich.

"All of the food is really fresh and it’s never old or a day from being old. All the apples and oranges and fruit are always really good," said Frances Carroll, Rich’s daughter.

Sustainable Renton started as a grocery store where people could "shop" at a location. After the state required shutdowns, the nonprofit decided to continue offering the grocery store by drive-through to reduce the spread of coronavirus. For the last 44 weeks, Sustainable Renton has been serving those who can’t afford food and the need continues growing. It supports families like Rich’s, who moved here from Nashville right before the shutdown.

"We were already struggling to meet the economy of this environment, this state," said Rich. "We just got here, we don’t know anybody. We don’t have any family here, so it’s not like I can call up mom and say, ‘We need some eggs this week. Do you have any eggs?’"

"The need is there and we have the resources and the capability to do it," said Lara Randolph, secretary for the nonprofit. "Sustainable Renton really gets behind the idea that food is for sharing."

Sharing with community partners like local grocers, bakeries, food banks, farms, and federal government is how Sustainable Renton is able to collect and donate about 30,000 pounds of food per week. And none of it goes to waste. Along with the average 1,000 people the drive-through supports, some people take the food to serve their own communities.

"[Customer] comes, she fills her car every week and distributes it to the veterans’ homes and we have another person who comes and collects for basically all of the people in their apartment building," said Scott Kreidermacher, lead of Sustainable Renton’s grocery store.

The work with Sustainable Renton is all done by volunteers. About 50 to 75 of them gather each week to help live up to the non-profit's name.

"I think that’s what all communities should have is partnerships with one another," said Terrie Meyer, the volunteer and community project coordinator for St. Matthews Lutheran Church.

"It literally brings a tear to my eye when I think about it. The fact that, I’ve said it before, I can’t believe that I’ve got this many people willing to get behind some crazy idea when I was moving produce out of the trunk of my car," said Kreidermacher.

The drive-through grocery store is every Monday evening at St. Matthews Lutheran Church, located at 1700 Edmonds Ave NE, Renton, WA 98056. The service is available to anyone in need, and they don’t have to be a Renton resident.

Sustainable Renton is in great need of volunteers. There are also opportunities to pick up food throughout the week if Monday evenings don’t work for volunteers’ schedules. Those who would like to sign up are encouraged to fill out an online form.