“Eliminating hunger and poverty is a moral issue. When we are driven by compassion for others, we develop a connection not only to food and people but also to our deepest values,” says Elizabeth Boggs, co-founder of Good Neighbor Family Pantry in Sherwood, Oregon, which provides individuals and families with limited means or difficult circumstances the ability to acquire surplus food at no cost.
Initially, Elizabeth and her husband, Tyler, did not set out to create a food bank. In an effort to put food on their table more organically, the young couple purchased a farm just outside of Beaverton, Oregon, in 2010. Looking to reduce food waste, feed their livestock, and save some money, the couple began acquiring excess produce that was going to be discarded by food distributors. Realizing that some of the excess food was too good to feed to their animals, they decided to open up their farm to needy citizens to glean from the supplies. “We were in tears that first day,” says Elizabeth. “We had no idea the need for food in our community was so profound!”
The couple banded with other farmers who were willing to help feed the hungry. Word spread, and larger equipment that could haul supplies from more distributors became critical. The group launched a public awareness campaign, and the community responded. “More than 250 sponsors got involved in just 30 days, and over $32,000 in cash and materials was raised,” says Elizabeth. The farmers were able to repair equipment as well as purchase a dedicated truck and trailer, allowing them to double their volume. In late 2014, Good Neighbor Family Pantry was formed. Today, the pantry is open seven days a week to the public.
While the community of Good Neighbor Family Pantry has grown, the spirit of volunteerism is steadfast. “We could not do what we do without the support of our hundreds of volunteers who work at the pantry,” says Elizabeth. The pantry community also includes the original farmers, along with suppliers and various supporters and civic organizations.
The Good Neighbor Family Pantry is now providing more than 14,000 pounds of fruit, vegetables, and other food items, valued at thousands of dollars, and feeding more than 800 people per month. The farmers work with more than 20 local Rotary Clubs to feed those who cannot make it to the farm, provides ingredients for various soup kitchens, and supplies four food banks. A new facility to house the growing service is being constructed, and a clothing closet will be included.
Elizabeth’s spirit is inspirational and innovative. “Working for the pantry has taught me that giving is more than just an act of service; it’s a way of living,” she says.
The Good Neighbor Family Pantry has done extraordinary things in the life of Sue Hutchinson and her three children. Finances were tight for the single mother and schoolteacher, so she came to the pantry to keep her children fed while still making ends meet. “Coming to the pantry never felt like a handout, or a shameful thing,” she says. “The work of this pantry resonated so deeply with me and my children. It’s not just in their mission of feeding others—but it’s in the passionate, sincere way they go about empowering and caring for those who might just need a little help.” Now a regular volunteer of the pantry and a member of the Board of Directors, Sue manages the hundreds of volunteers that work at the pantry.
When not at the farm or pantry, Elizabeth works as an emergency room nurse in the local hospitals and as a nutritional therapy practitioner, teaching others how to use food as medicine to heal the body. As an herbologist and fermentationist, Elizabeth enjoys experimenting with food preservation and creating alternative healing remedies in her spare time. It is not unusual to see Elizabeth interacting with individuals who come to the pantry on the best ways to use and manage their food supplies. “Our goal is to create independence, self-sufficiency and sustainability, so people leave changed with a mentality of abundance, service and community,” she says.