The Little Free Pantry Angels

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Every pantry is different but most - not all - have shelves and doors

It started out last April. Two friends were talking about their concerns about hungry children and families in the Shoreline School District.
One of them, Kim Clasen, is a fifth grade teacher at Lake Forest Park Elementary and the other, Barb Swan, has spent the last 35 years doing annual food drives for Northwest Harvest and local food banks. 

They understood the stress of families facing food insecurity, and realized the coronavirus pandemic was throwing many persons who had never before needed food assistance into the precarious balance of how to feed themselves and their families.
Kim, who grew up in Lake Forest Park, had heard that many of the local “Little Free Libraries” were being converted into “Little Free Pantries;” roadside cupboards where people could discreetly “Take What They Need, Leave What They Can.”

She started driving the area and found several, all of which needed filling. So Barb and Kim sent an email out to their network of friends, collected some donations of money and food, and set about filling up those pantries.

Within a matter of weeks they had a routine: Barb started collecting funds and shopping, and Kim drove the delivery route. Through word of mouth, social media and a blog post, their friends began sending Venmo donations and dropping off checks and canned food. 

Kim's van, ready for the weekly delivery run

Barb sources the best deals on hygiene and food staples. Some friends donated their government stimulus checks, some generous souls donate a bit each month, others have heard through friends and sent money for this quiet cause.

To date they have purchased and stocked over $13,000 worth of hygiene items and food staples to the Little Free Pantries throughout the Shoreline School District.

What started as a simple gift of helping local families one time has snowballed into nine months of sourcing, shopping, and delivery. 

After seeing a need for a pantry in the northern part of Lake Forest Park, the women coerced Barb’s husband into building a new pantry with materials donated by a local contractor and found a generous family to install the pantry in front of their home.

Barb logs each donation and purchase into a notebook, and has learned to source the best prices on the things they note have highest turnover in the pantries. Every week she purchases cases of peanut butter, jam, ready-to-eat meals like chili, ravioli, refried beans or hearty soup, shelf stable milk, breads, canned fruits, tuna, canned chicken, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, feminine hygiene, baby wipes, hand and dish soap. 

She sometimes receives pretty strange looks when she is loading 24 packs of maxi pads into her cart, but she has become accustomed to masking up and heading out to load up her SUV with goods every week.

After she stocks up, they transfer everything into Kim’s bright red van and over the course of the week Kim makes the rounds to the now twenty-two Little Free Pantries in the area. Sometimes the pantries are in desperate need of restocking, other times community members have filled them. 

There have been occasions where Kim has seen moms in cars with children waiting for her to drive away so they can discreetly take a few things for a meal. The two have found that our community at large has been generous to the little pantries in the area, but they note that nearly every time Kim restocks, the basic necessities and hygiene items which she delivered previously have been “shopped.” 

Simple things like shampoo and toothpaste can make all the difference to a person trying to find a job or get through a day -- and oftentimes those items are not available through community food banks.

Their intent is simple; keep their community fed and as healthy as possible in these trying times. It is an endeavor that has kept them busy through the pandemic, and grateful each day for those with generous hearts supporting their quiet undertaking.

To donate to Barb and Kim’s Angel Pantry program contact Barb at or Kim at


Anonymous,  January 12, 2021 at 1:04 PM  

Rock stars! Thanks for supporting the LFP community!

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