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An unofficial, but dependable, food source for those in need in Brentwood-Darlington celebrates first year

DAVID F. ASHTON - Its a welcome sight for neighbors who need a little more food for their families, when the Unofficial Brentwood-Darlington Pop-Up Pantry opens for an afternoon. At two locations in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood, two interconnected weekly "pop-up food pantries" marked one year of service for those who need food support in the area. They began on July 1, 2020.

"The Pop-Up Pantry started as a way to prevent food waste – by distributing donated bread and treats from the Grand Central Bakery's Woodstock store, which would otherwise have been discarded," reminded organizer and neighborhood leader Chelsea Powers.

"Before the Woodmere Elementary food pantry, run by Impact NW/SUN, was closed by the COVID-19 pandemic, that food would have been picked up by volunteers like me," Powers remarked. "So, instead of letting it go to waste, I just kept gathering it and putting it out on a table in front of my house.

"A few weeks later, after people started bringing garden produce and extra pantry goods, Kristin Sassano – who lives 18 blocks to the east – had the idea to have two locations. So, our 'Pop-Up Pantry' began the next week with a website, an e-mail, a spreadsheet, and a few folding tables!"

What's officially called the "Unofficial Brentwood-Darlington Pop-Up Pantry" has been serving neighbors Wednesday since they began. "We've been 'open' during snow, fires, smoke, extreme heat, rain, you name it – even when the school pantries and food resources closed, we were still out there," observed Powers. 

And, when there's been an abundance of perishables, they've hosted "bonus pantry" pop-ups along the way.

Asked why volunteers such as herself take on this extra work in addition to all the other things they do, Powers replied, "I firmly believe that everyone should have access to food, regardless of their circumstances; no one should go hungry when there is so much food available but just not being distributed.

"I am very lucky that, when my family has had hard times in the past, there has always been someone there to help us. I'm glad I can 'pay that forward' and help others when they need it, because sometimes it only takes a little bit to keep you from going over the edge."

The result of this combined effort has been, in Powers' words, "mind blowing. It has brought a diverse community together in a way nothing else I've volunteered for has. I have met so many neighbors because of the Pop-Up Pantry – people whom I would not have otherwise had the chance to know, who came to volunteer, donate, and shop – some doing all three!

 

"The best part for me has been the opportunity to turn someone's day around unexpectedly," Powers reflected, before turning to bring out more food to waiting "customers".  "Seeing joy on a neighbor's face when you have just the thing they need is extremely rewarding."

Find out more about the "Unofficial Brentwood-Darlington Pop-Up Pantry" at the website – bdpopuppantry.org


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