PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — What started as a way of giving out excess bread from a local bakery before it went stale has turned into a full-blown pop-up pantry in Southeast Portland to help neighbors struggling during the pandemic.
Chelsea Powers started the pantry from her home in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood over the summer. Normally she volunteered to transport excess bread each Wednesday from nearby Grand Central Bakery to Woodmere Elementary, where her child goes to school.
But when the school closed down during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Powers decided to simply put the bread out on a table for people in need to pick up, with the bakery’s blessing.
From there, the pantry has expanded to a multi-neighbor volunteer effort, now coined the “Unofficial Brentwood-Darlington Pop-Up Pantry.”
Individuals and local organizations donate their food, time and money to the project. And another neighbor, Kristin Sassano, now operates a second location in the same neighborhood.
“We had over $3,000 donated last year by neighbors, just in funds. And all those funds go back to buying — we buy eggs and fresh produce from Rinella’s, which is a local warehouse of bulk goods,” Powers said.
Unofficial Brentwood-Darlington Pop-Up Pantry Hours:
- Wednesdays 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.
- SE 60th and Ogden
- SE 78th and Ogden
- “Free Fridge” at SE 67th and Henry (pick up anytime)
The two pantry locations are at SE 60th and Ogden, which Powers operates, and another at SE 78th and Ogden, run by her neighbor, Sassano. Both operate every Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The pantry is free to everyone.
“If you need the food or you know someone who needs it, take it,” Powers said.
Powers was a substitute education assistant helping special needs children at a local elementary school before running the pantry, a job that has since gone away due to the pandemic, she said.
The pantry also provides masks, asks people to socially distance, and provides hand sanitizer for maximum safety.
Powers said people have been so invested, a couple of neighbors actually provided pre-cooked meals to the pantry on the weeks of both Thanksgiving and Christmas — each time providing about 40 meals. When KOIN 6 News visited the pantry on Wednesday, Jan. 20, Powers estimates each location provided food to about 40 families/groups.
Powers said any perishable leftovers that they can’t get through gets distributed through other means, like the “Free Fridge” located at SE 67th and Henry as well as to Laurelwood Shelter on SE Foster.
To find out more about the pantry and how to donate, visit their website or simply drop in at one of their locations in the Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. each Wednesday.