Tiny, DIY Food Pantries are an Easy Way to Help Your Community

posted: 01/23/17
by: Blythe Copeland
Little Pantry
The Little Free Pantry

From Florida to Minnesota, volunteers are putting up small wooden pantries to help neighbors in need feed their families anonymously. The pantries are similar to Little Free Libraries, which are small boxes on posts in yards, at parks, near churches and business where local residents can take a book or leave one for others to read. But instead of filling the boxes with reading material, owners stock them with food and toiletries for neighbors to take as needed.

NPR traced the first Little Free Pantry to Jessica McClard of Arkansas. She told NPR that food and other goods are often taken from the box less than an hour after it's stocked -- indicating that plenty of community members can use a the extra help. "The frequency of the turnover and the fact that other sites in town are also turning over that frequently, it suggests to me that the need is tremendous," she says.

Find plans for your own box at LittleFreePantry.org -- and consider building one even if you think your neighbors wouldn't need it. Maggie Ballard, who calls hers a "blessing box," told NPR that she rarely sees anyone taking the goods since most people come overnight. But it's that anonymity that makes the boxes appealing to people who might feel uncomfortable at a local food bank. "I felt like this is something I could do," Ballard told NPR, "something small that, you know, would benefit so many people so long as the word got out about it."