No community is untouched by hunger. Kenmore is no different. To serve this need, Northlake Lutheran Church recently opened a Little Free Pantry (LFP).
Members unveiled the community pantry on Oct. 22. It’s been been in the works for at least a year.
“At Northlake, we do a lot of community events,” said Pastor Anja Helmon. “We’re very community oriented so we’re very interested in ways we can support Kenmore and the people that live close by.”
Helmon — who’s been the pastor at the church for almost five years — said members of the church believed an LFP would be a great way to support people who are struggling in Kenmore.
Before the LFP, Helmon said the church hosted Hopelink’s food bank program. For about five years, church members volunteered to run the food bank. But a year ago, Hopelink closed the food bank.
“The church was really sad about the food bank closing,” Helmon said. “Since then, we’ve been wanting to do something.”
A year ago, members of the Common House Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Bothell-Woodinville reached out to Northlake Lutheran to propose a possible partnership.
Helmon said it seemed like a great idea and they agreed.
Common House built the LFP for Northlake Lutheran and the materials to build the pantry were donated by Dunn Lumber. Northlake Lutheran members stained the pantry and established it on their property.
Jerry Wagner said he hopes the LFP gets the community more involved.
“We need to be aware of the people in the Kenmore and Bothell area that are struggling with food and housing,” he said. “People need to be aware of how much need there is here in our community…there’s an awful lot of people hurting and struggling.”
Wagner, who’s been a member of the church for about 40 years, had volunteered with Hopelink’s food bank for many years and was on the board of Lutheran Alliance To Create Housing (LATCH) 20 years ago.
With great emphasis, Wagner said this is what he feels like he’s supposed to be doing.
“This is just another [way] to reach out to people who don’t have very much or need help along the way,” he said.
In King County, Feeding America reported in 2017 that 244,160 people were experiencing food insecurity. The food insecurity rate in King County was 11.5 percent, according to the report.
Food insecurity in the United States refers to the “lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate food,” according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Federal nutrition programs don’t reach everyone in need, and that is where food banks and even LFPs help fill the gap.
“This is not a Northlake Lutheran Church pantry,” said Helmon. “It’s a Kenmore pantry.”
Helmon said the pantry is stocked by everyone and utilized by everyone. She added that anyone can take from it.
“The thing about the pantry is that when you see someone standing there, you don’t know if they’re stocking or taking,” she said. “There doesn’t need to be any shame or embarrassment.”
Written over the pantry is, “Take what you need…Leave what you can.”
LFP and the mini-pantry movement is designed on the model of Little Free Libraries around neighborhoods, to activate community engagement on food insecurity. An LFP meets neighborhood needs, whether for food or “for fun,” according to littlefreepantry.org. It is neighbors helping neighbors.
With the help of the community, LFPs are typically stocked with canned foods, personal care items, paper goods, crayons or anything that might benefit a neighbor.
Northlake Lutheran member, Rick Heinbaugh said the church’s intent is to not make it a “Sunday morning-only church,” but a church that does something for their neighbors throughout the week.
“We hear on Sunday morning that our expectation is that we love our neighbors and take care of them,” he said. “This isn’t just saying a prayer for them, this is doing [something] for them.”
The LFP is located at the bottom of Northlake Lutheran Church’s driveway at 6620 NE 185th St. in Kenmore.