by: Vern Uyetake More than 200 pounds of food was collected for the West Linn Food Pantry during West Linn resident Paula Harkin’s 1,000th run on Sept. 27. Pictured are Shauna Shroyer (left) and Constance Weaver gathering the collections.

Though it might not be easy to see in West Linn or Lake Oswego, families are going hungry. West Linn's Food Pantry has been a successful operation serving both cities since January 2007.

The 2009 Feeding America report found that Oregon had the highest rate of childhood hunger in the nation. It stated that 29 percent of Oregon children face food insecurity, meaning they are not sure where their next meal is going to come from.

The West Linn Food Pantry hands out 90 boxes of staples per month and serves 50 to 60 families a week in just fresh bread and produce.

'It's been quite steady,' said Jennifer Loney, food pantry co-director. '... Not everybody in West Linn has money or a lot of money.'

Most people who use the pantry are either large families or elderly couples on fixed incomes. And there are also families whose jobs have been cut back or eliminated.

Visitors to the food pantry must live in either West Linn or Lake Oswego.

But what makes the food pantry so special is all the hard work and generous donations people and businesses contribute, without getting anything in return.

Some of the business donors from Lake Oswego include Upper Crust, St. Honore Boulangerie and Safeway. West Linn donors include Albertson's, Starbucks and Market of Choice. They also receive donations from Portland Bagel Company. Even cat and dog food is donated. That doesn't even touch on all the churches, schools, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, libraries and businesses that hold food drives throughout the year.

'The community as a whole does a great job supporting us,' said Loney.

Perhaps the most interesting cycle of giving and getting is the relationship between Bolton Primary School and the food pantry. Bolton students grow and maintain a garden as part of their science curriculum.

Produce from the school's garden is donated to the food pantry. In return, the food pantry clips all the Box Tops for Education labels off all of its cans and boxes and gives them to the school. Just this year, the food pantry gave the school more than $1,100 in Box Tops, which the school then reinvests into the garden.

'It's been a great partnership with Bolton school,' said Loney. 'It's been phenomenal.'

Everything the food pantry does is 100 percent volunteer and donations. The pantry has around 50 volunteers donating their time.

Items the pantry current needs are toiletries, canned fruit, canned chili and meat, beans, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, 100 percent juice, jelly and peanut butter.

'We like everything. We're not proud,' joked Loney. 'If it comes in, it goes out. We waste nothing.'

The West Linn Food Pantry is located at 1683 Willamette Falls Drive. It is open Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m.

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