As Seattle’s wealth continues to grow, so does its economic disparity, and after the holidays is a tough time.
In January 2016, the Rainier Valley Food Bank saw more than 22,000 individual visits.
When Executive Director Sam Osborne started in 2009, it was barely 6,000 a month.
“While a large part of our City has enjoyed an economic resurgence over the last few years, for thousands of folks in our community, things have only gotten worse since the Great Recession,” he said. “We’ve experienced incredible growth in terms of both the number of people who need our help and the amount of community support we receive.”
Sam and his small staff manage to pull off a minor miracle twice each week, as they serve 600-800 families every Wednesday and Saturday.
“We have to work very hard at keeping enough food on the shelves and financial support to ensure that we can achieve our mission as effectively as possible,” he added. “We are here to make sure that everyone who needs food has it, and has it in the highest possible quality.”
In addition to his work at the food bank, Sam is also a Rector at Hagia Sophia Chapel. In college, he studied Anthropology and earned a Masters in Transforming Spirituality at Seattle University. He speaks philosophically about the social issues facing communities today.
“Until we collectively bring about a profound shift toward equity on multiple levels in our society, and begin to boldly and honestly address the roots of systemic oppression,” he says. “There will remain many who need help with the most basic of human needs.”
This week, Sam was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for our People in Your Neighborhood column — a series of interviews with some of South Seattle’s most interesting and engaging people.
How long in South Seattle?
Working and/or living: 14 years
Where from originally?
Executive Director, Rainier Valley Food Bank
What do you like most about your day job?
My job brings together my two favorite things in life – people and food – in a way that (hopefully) ends up making our community a better place.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Knowing that by the time I relax in the evening, I will have been a part of a collective effort that has helped ease someone else’s suffering, at least a little bit, and in all likelihood, will have learned something new in the process.
What motivates you to do this work?
A radical Love for all of my fellow beings.
What are you passionate about?
Love, food, freedom and justice
What are your hobbies?
Cooking, camping, cooking while camping, reading graphic novels and science fiction, singing, and thinking up new ways to fight and end systemic oppression and tyranny.
Tell us about your family:
I’m married to a wonderful massage therapist, have a 20-year old step-son, and live with two hilarious tuxedo cats. My dad (a gregarious retired sociologist) and older brother (a comedic genius chef and artist) still live in TX, where I visit as often as possible.
What’s your most favorite thing about South Seattle?
People helping each other, supporting each other, and loving each other regardless of who they are.
What’s your least favorite thing about South Seattle?
People bickering about minutiae on neighborhood Facebook pages.
Where is your favorite place to go in South Seattle?
Too many to name just one, but Jude’s Old Town, Geraldine’s, Kubota Garden, Seward Park, Rainier BBQ, and the back deck of my house are among my favorite haunts.
If you could live anywhere besides South Seattle, where would it be?
Spain, France, or Italy
If there was one thing you could change about South Seattle, what would it be?
Lower rents and home prices!
Who inspires you?
The memory of my mother (d. 2007), Bernie Sanders, Angela Davis, Anthony Bourdain, Stephan Hoeller, Nick Saul, and Marcus Harrison Green.
What was the last thing you read?
Les Dîners de Gala (the Salvador Dali cookbook – yes, it’s finally been reprinted!)
Tell us something about you that not many people know:
I’m an ordained priest of the Ecclesia Gnostica (google it!), and lead a small parish located in the U-District, which I established 17 years ago.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Soaking in the cave at Goldmyer Hotspring with my lady love at midnight.
What is your greatest fear?
That fear will triumph over love. (I’m pretty confident that it will not.)
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
What is your current state of mind?
Cautiously optimistic and determined, in spite of the terrifying absurdities issuing forth from the White House each day
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Kicking cancer’s ass when I nearly died of stage 4B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma 20 years ago.
What is your most treasured possession?
What do you most value in your friends?
Empathy, grit, courage, creativity, mindfulness, compassion, and the willingness to explore new ideas and challenge internalized norms.
Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Who are your heroes in real life?
Harriet Tubman, Hunter S Thompson, Julia Child, and Plato.
Is there a South Seattle neighbor you’d like to know more about? Nominate them for our People in Your Neighborhood column — a series of interviews with some of South Seattle’s most interesting and engaging people. Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.