When people hear Cannon Beach has a food pantry, surprise is not an uncommon response. As a renowned upscale tourist destination studded with opulent homes and ocean views, how can there be a need for such a resource, they wonder.

Yet, as the Cannon Beach Food Pantry’s board pointed out, Cannon Beach, like most towns, is home to a diverse population. That includes families with parents working several seasonal jobs, who struggle when their hours are cut in the winter, along with elderly folks and those with chronic illness. Additionally, unexpected circumstances can leave almost anyone in need.

“We suffer peaks and valleys,” board member Krista Tye said, adding the food pantry serves as a bridge to help people persevere and journey toward the next peak.

A decade of service

On April 15, the food pantry will celebrate its 10-year anniversary. Several long-term board members can remember the early days, when there was little activity and “we did a lot of standing around, because we didn’t have the customers,” board member Barb Knop said.

“I didn’t think we’d be in business long,” she added.

Times have changed, though. Each Wednesday, when the pantry is open from 3 to 5 p.m. at the old elementary school building on the north end of town, a hundred or more people filter through.

In 2018, the pantry served 1,852 households, or 6,865 customers—a substantial increase over the numbers reported in 2015, or 1,266 households and 4,443 customers. Additionally, volunteers worked nearly 1,900 hours in 2018 and the organization received about 56,000 pounds of donations.

Customers can come every week and receive a collection of basic items – fruit, vegetables, canned goods, and milk, to name a few. Every other week, they can fill out a “shopping list,” selecting a few additional items, such as coffee, jam, oil, oatmeal, sugar, and flour. The pantry also distributes feminine hygiene products, donated by Windermere; toilet paper, laundry soap, toiletries and diapers; and dog and cat food supplied by The Pongo Fund. For transient or homeless individuals, the pantry offers boxes of supplies, none of which needs to be cooked or refrigerated. Customers are given a number when they come to shop, so as to protect their anonymity.

“Anyone who walks in our door gets fed,” board member Judy Mace said.

‘On equal footing’

As a working board, the pantry’s leadership is in the thick of it, picking up goods from the Regional Food Bank, Costco, Safeway and other distributaries; sorting through food to remove undesirable items; taking and filling orders; overseeing children while their parents shop; fundraising; and much more.

“That makes us stronger and more aware,” Tye said.

They consider the clients as customers and, more importantly, their friends and neighbors from the community. When they walk in the door, board member Lolly Champion said, “We are all on equal footing.” After a weekly distribution period, the volunteers often go home tired, but “it’s a good kind of tired,” Knop said.

She recalled a situation where they received a request to make a delivery, because a person couldn’t get to the pantry before it closed. The volunteers agreed to drop off supplies. When they did so, Knop said, she remembers the family’s two children saying, “‘Oh good, we get to have dinner tonight.’”

Over the years, local establishments have generously supported the food pantry, according to board members. They receive food from Fresh Foods supermarket and Mariner Market, making it rare they don’t have a fresh vegetable to distribute. Insomnia Coffee, Sea Level Bakery, and Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters all frequently donate baked goods. The Inn at Cannon Beach allows dogs to stay for free if patrons donate canned food. Members of Cannon Beach Community Church sew blankets for young mothers giving birth. Barrels are stationed throughout town for collecting supplies, as well.

Board member Alan Mushen keeps track of the numbers each week, as well as annually, and is able to see how many adults, children, and families benefit from the pantry’s existence, giving a numerical value to their efforts.

“It gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling,” he said.

For more information about the pantry, visit cannonbeachfoodpantry.org or call 971-326-0479.

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