‘I wanted to cry’: Flooding destroys $20k worth of goods at Port Orchard food pantry

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. — Relentless rain in Western Washington and the flooding that followed is causing big problems for a Kitsap County food bank, at the worst possible time. Water destroyed almost all their stored dried goods. That encompasses things like flour, pasta, rice, oatmeal, mac and cheese, and even cookies and crackers. The pantry, the South Kitsap Helpline, said it only has enough to get through Thursday, anything after that is up in the air.

The South Kitsap Helpline operates out of an old building, it has a crack in the foundation and this will be their third winter without heat. It’s also not the first time the drain in front of the basement door let water seep in, but Executive Director Jennifer Hardison said this time is by far the worst.

“My boots aren’t high enough. I would actually say it’s 12 inches. We have lost a lot of product,” said the first employee to see the flood damage, in a video.

They sent that footage to Hardison Tuesday morning.

“I just felt sick to my stomach. I wanted to cry.”  Hardison said. “The boxes that were on top of the boxes that were on the bottoms of the pallets and they had all collapsed because the bottoms had collapsed.”

The building’s basement used to be stocked with dry food. The labels marking where the stacks were now sit over empty, waterlogged pallets. The only dry food people can take home is what’s left sitting on the food pantry shelves.

“Now that we’ve sat back and thought about it, it’s probably about $20k worth the product or so. We give out on average between 60,000 to 90,000 lbs of food every month here,” said Hardison. “We’re always busy but we’re especially busy right now with the holidays and people needing extra assistance.”

The water that bubbled up from the drain into the basement took hours to clear out. Hardison said that they’d have to rip up the backyard to fix the drain issue, but it’ll cost a lot. It’s a cost they can’t afford to take on because they’re hoping to build a new facility so they won’t have to deal with the old building for much longer.

“We were hoping at this point that house would be demolished and we would be working from our new building by now but that’s not happened just yet so we’re just making due,” said Hardison.

She said they want to flatten the old building and build the new facility where their greenhouses are. The old building’s spot will become an expanded parking lot and gardens. 

Hardison also said that the new building and footprint is about an $8 million project. They have grant writers working to get funding now. To help with that funding head to https://skhelpline.org/give/.

They accept food donations every weekday between 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Wednesdays.