Food

Guemes Community Pantry

Meeting a rainbow of needs

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Guemes Island, a five-minute ferry ride from Anacortes, is just what you’d expect from a small Pacific Northwest island—a colorful mixed bag of retirees, families, singles, hippies, yuppies, meat-eaters, vegetarians, artists and farmers.

United in our differences, we lean on each other in the best of times. When COVID-19 took over our lives and we found ourselves literally stuck on an island together, the community struggled with how to stay connected while ordered to be apart.

Jessica Lynch, Carson Parks, their daughter Matia, and fellow islander Jenny Schofield created a space that provided our island community with a connection we never knew we always needed.

Lynch and Parks are talented makers by trade. She is the illustrator for Slow Loris (http://www.slowshirts.com), and he creates functional wood and metal pieces as Knotweld (http://www.knotweld.com). Together, they also created and run Guemes Tiny House on Airbnb (http://www.tinyliving.com/makers-tiny-house-guemes-island).

When the stay-at-home order took effect and their businesses came to a halt, they knew they needed a project to focus their energy. Their instinctive need to create and build took over.

“Initially we thought we’d build a play shed for our daughter, and then that idea became a roadside produce stand for our garden,” Lynch says. “It was when we realized we couldn’t continue our Simple Gesture participation that the pantry idea was born.” The family normally collect bags of donated food items from island residents every other month for the “A Simple Gesture” program in Anacortes.

With materials sourced from their woodpile and leftover bits and pieces from various other projects, they crafted the outdoor pantry at no cost. Lynch drew up the design and painted the signage, and Parks and Schofield constructed it while respecting each other’s social distance.

Over the course of three days it was built, painted and stocked with the first supply of food donated from A Simple Gesture. Guemes-based business Mimnaugh Excavation donated two truckloads of gravel to finish off the space, giving cars a place to park.

Now, the friendly stand proudly and permanently lives on Holiday Boulevard, at the edge of the Parks/Lynch property. Lynch’s recognizable Slow Loris illustration style is everywhere. A large sign encourages folks to “Give or take a few,” and small signs with suggested safety precautions, food items needed and gracious thanks are posted inside.

The well-organized shelves are stocked with fresh produce, garden starts, nonperishable goods, personal items, toilet paper, art items and puzzles for kids, and an entire shelf for books. Seattle’s Estrella Soap donated a selection of handmade soaps and candles. An author from Portland made a financial donation that purchased containers to organize items and a flag with a hand-sewn heart from Seattle Flag Company. Neighbors provide vases of fresh flowers. Clearly community is everywhere in this roadside stand.

Daily trips with their daughter and dog to tend to the stand provide routine for Lynch and Parks. Together, they wipe down items, remove expired or moldy produce and tidy up.

“I’m amazed at the amount of people that visit the stand in a half-hour period,” Lynch says.

In a community as diverse as Guemes, Parks and Lynch hoped the pantry would be used by everyone, not just those with food insecurities. In an effort to eliminate unnecessary trips off island, they wanted to provide the opportunity for islanders to have food for emergency situations or if they just needed one more item for a dinner recipe.

Turns out, the stand provides so much more than that. It meets a rainbow of needs. Pulling up to the stand for the first time, I felt the love of the island overflowing from the shelves. My daughter bounded out of the car and quickly dove into the treasure chest of treats and snacks for kids. We donated rolls of toilet paper and took home a jar of marinated artichokes to add to our pizza later.

A sense of gratitude filled my whole being as we drove away. If this time of self-isolation has taught us anything, it’s how to silently support our communities.

“From building it to managing it daily has been an incredible experience for us,” Lynch and Parks say. For all of us, the community pantry is a restored faith in humanity and a visual reminder of how much we love our little island community.

Photo by Jessica Lynch

UPCOMING EVENTS

[May 6-9]

PLANT SALE: Order plants for the Mt. Baker Plant Sale starting Wed., May 6. Plants will be available for pickup Thurs.-Sat., May 7-9 at the greenhouse at Mount Baker Senior High, 4936 Deming Rd. A list of plants and their prices will be made available on the Mt. Baker Plant Sale’s Facebook page. They look forward to providing community members with quality plant material, raised by MBHS students at competitive prices.
For more info: http://www.mtbaker.wednet.edu

[Sat., May 9]

BELLINGHAM FARMERS MARKET: Attend the Bellingham Farmers Market from 10am-2pm Saturdays at the Depot Market Square, 1100 Railroad Ave. At the modified market, social distancing is strongly enforced, patrons are not allowed to touch the food, and only 20 vendors are allowed on site to sell farm produce and grocery staples such as bread, meat and cheese. Entertainment, music and eating areas have been suspended until further notice, and masks are encouraged. Please stay home if you are sick, and be prepared with small bills to offer exact change to vendors when possible.
For more info: http://www.bellinghamfarmers.org

[Tues., May 12]

FOOD PRESERVATION SERIES: WSU Skagit County Extension will host a Food Preservation Series starting tonight at 6pm online using Zoom. This series will help you increase your food access learning safe, tested protocols. With the recent COVID-19 outbreak, organizers have found an increased interest in food preservation as people experience food shortages at grocery stores and consider putting more emphasis on self-sustainability in our food system. Tickets to the four-part series are $50; classes include Water Bath Canning (May 12), Pressure Canning (May 19), Fermentation and Pickling (May 26), and Freezing, Drying and Root Cellars (June 2). No equipment is necessary. After you complete your registration, you will receive the link, password and directions to the Zoom meeting.
For more info: http://www.springfoodpreservation.eventbrite.com

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