Late last September, Laine Wood stopped by the community garden, owned by Roy Taylor, on Railroad Street in Canton, to glean the last of her summer crop. Her grandchildren, ages 6 and 9, watched from the car as she collected about 30 pounds of roma tomatoes and pulled up the plants to clear off her plot.
Before long, she learned she had other observers.
“I heard someone say, ‘Ma’am.’ I turned around and a girl about 14 or 15 was standing there, holding a plastic bag out in front of her, open. I said, ‘Yes, can I help you?’ And she said, ‘We are hungry.’”
With her was a man, in tears, who Laine assumed was the father, and a younger girl on a bicycle. She gave them her tomatoes, and got back in the car, empty-handed.
“My grandkids asked why I gave them my tomatoes. I told them they had no food. Then Caleb, who is 9, said, ‘Gran, what are you going to do?’”
What happened next set into motion a series of events that has led to the creation of the Canton Pantry Angels, and streetside food pantries popping up around Canton.
The first thing Laine did was call Gary Lamb at Action Church to see if he was doing food giveaways more than once a month. He said he couldn’t because his suppliers were already stressed from need. He suggested Roy put up a table for free produce at the community garden so other gardeners could contribute. However, Roy had a better idea.
“Roy, an architect, drew up plans for a pantry, but the cost of materials shot that idea down,” Laine said. “Then he told me that he had a kitchen cabinet with glass doors that he would put there. That worked and was set up with a roof to protect from the elements, and filled with goods my personal friends had brought to my house. I used some of the donated money to buy a sign pointing to it that says ‘Comida gratis/free food’. That got it noticed, and it’s being emptied almost every other day since.”
Laine had posted the story on her personal Facebook page and, before long, friends nearby and across the country started sending money to buy food to fill the pantry. Local friends brought bags filled with groceries to her home.
Since that time, another pantry has been set up in front of the Salvation Army store on Marietta Street. Jory Seidel Cannon got on board and created a Facebook page called Canton Pantry Angels, and people Laine doesn’t even know have volunteered to check the inventory daily, and to keep the shelves filled.
“One in seven households in the U.S. is food insecure. The need is great, and I’m afraid it’s going to get worse before it gets better due to the pandemic and unemployment,” Laine said.
“When Caleb asked me what I was going to do, I knew I had to do something. But, in all honesty, all I did was tell Gary and Roy about the encounter, posted it on Facebook, watched folks immediately ask how they could help, and the match was lit. Folks want to help, Roy and the rest of the Canton Pantry Angels stepped up. I’m just glad I know who to ask to get things done.”