Tattoo artist John Uttech recently asked himself a question, “How can we do something positive for our community through our artwork?” His answer: fight hunger by trading tattoos for non-perishable food items.

Uttech and fellow Weed Tattoo Company artist Becky Trevino held a food drive – and the community responded. Customers who brought in two bags of groceries were offered a free 2” by 2” tattoo. Uttech estimates about 100 people came by to drop off donations, and the two artists inked over 30 tattoos on Dec. 22.

“I am blown away by the support the community showed,” said Uttech. “The community was there for me at a time of dire need and I wanted to give back.”

The drive collected more than 1,000 pounds of food, according to Great Northern Services, a local nonprofit organization that collaborated with Weed Tattoo Company.

Great Northern Services offers emergency food bags for those in need and helps stock several food pantries around Siskiyou County.

“Hunger is a very real – and very debilitating – threat for many residents of Siskiyou County,” states GNS Executive Director Marie-Josée Wells. “While programs like the USDA Food Commodities Distribution and hot meal programs provide critical assistance to many people, situations arise where food is needed and no other services are available. Emergency food bags help meet this additional need.”

According to GNS Community Services Director Heather Solus, “The community plays a crucial role in our ability to provide emergency food. Since we don’t turn anyone away, government funding is not always available. Food drives like the one held by Weed Tattoo Company help make sure we can offer this support.”

Becky Trevino said, “We weren’t sure how many people would show up, but they came. People came and donated and didn’t even want tattoos.”

Chad Massey and his wife Heidi decided to bring in donations without getting inked. “It was my first time donating to a food drive,” said Massey. “But we’re good friends with John and it seemed like a good cause, giving some food to people who need it. We just wanted to help.”

Of those who did want new ink, Uttech reported a number of people requested artwork with great emotional significance. Heather Watkins saw the event on Facebook and came down with her daughter to get memorial tattoos for the daughter/sister they lost in 2016.

“What better way to honor her memory than to bring a bunch of food to people in need?” said Watkins. “John is really amazing, he is always about community. It was like a gift to be able to help out and receive something so beautiful in return.”

Stephen Werder also heard about the event through Facebook. “I’ve been in the situation before,” said Werder. “So being able to give back is something I like to do.” His traded tattoo reads “Heart Over Mind” and he would do it again if given the chance. “I was proud to see how many people participated,” Werner added. “I thought it was a pretty cool idea. A food drive through a tattoo parlor… it brought in a different spectrum of the community.”

Uttech plans to make the drive an annual event. “Why not give back to the community that supports us?”

The Weed Tattoo Company (presented by Small Town Ink) relocated to downtown Weed in fall 2018. They’re on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WeedTattooCo.

If you would like to help feed local families in Siskiyou County you can make a donation at www.gnservices.org/donate.

If you or someone you know is in need of assistance call the GNS Community Services Department at (530) 938-4115, extension 111.