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Arkansas Woman Helps End Hunger with Little Free Pantry Boxes

Jessica McClard launched the Little Free Pantry grassroots project in May 2016 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Inspired by the Little Free Library concept, she wanted to address the growing food insecurity in the United States. She stocked the mini pantry with non-perishable foods like canned vegetables, toiletries, and other household items. It started with a single wooden box, and now small pantries have started popping up around the world.

How Jessica started this project

Jessica said the idea for the free little pantry came to her during a run around your neighborhood one day. You noticed many of the little free libraries in your area and loved the idea of ​​sharing items in the communities. From there, he wondered how he could apply this to other areas of need. His mind quickly turned to food insecurity, and the Little Free Pantry soon came to life.

After coming up with the idea, she invited some friends to help her build the first pantry. They installed it in May 2016 at Food Shepherd Lutheran Church in East Fayetteville. Once word about it pantry Spread throughout the community, people from all walks of life visited the church. A few months after it was created, Jessica calculated that the box filled and emptied about six times a day.

Photo: Facebook

Shortly after they built the first location, they were joined by two Little Free Pantries. One is at the Church of Christ in South Fayetteville, and another is outside a church in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Thousands of others have been built around the world since the project was launched, and it continues to grow. Jessica responds to messages every day from people who want to start her free pantry.

She now has a website Y Facebook page to help answer people’s questions and spread awareness about the movement. It’s a completely open source project, and Jessica never expected it to grow as big as it has. She hopes that each community will eventually have its own small pantry to help those in need.

Things to consider if you are interested in creating a free pantry

Jessica says that you’ll want to factor in the location first when developing a pantry. You want to ensure the safety of everyone who visits, so choosing an area with low traffic and low crime is crucial. Also, be sure to contact city officials for permission to place your pantry in a public space.

After choosing a location, you need to reach out to other people who can help you keep it stocked. Perhaps friends, relatives, churches, and other organizations could provide articles on a regular basis. Generally, items stored in pantries include household items such as toilet paper, paper towels, tampons, and diapers. You’ll also want to store non-perishable foods like canned vegetables and protein, peanut butter, bread and other snacks. Bottles of water, nuts, seeds, bandages, over-the-counter medications like pain relievers, and dried fruit are other ideas.

Keep in mind that you’ll want to maintain a spotty supply to control traffic and make use manageable. If you keep the stocked pantry 24/7, it will be difficult to maintain supply consistently. Additionally, traffic can become a problem for the neighborhood and loitering if too many people congregate in the area. Coordinate with friends and others, helping you decide on a storage schedule that suits the needs of the neighborhood.

Don’t let others dissuade you

Jessica says that when she first announced her free pantry idea, many people disagreed with her. They were concerned about vandalism or that people would take too much of them. However, she says none of those concerns have come true, as far as she knows.

On Memorial Day, he stopped by the original pantry and found that someone had decorated it with flags. She believes that the pantries are well cared for by the communities. He also said that if someone needs to take everything out of a pantry for whatever reason, they should feel comfortable doing so. After all, pantries are there to serve people in need.

The goal of the Little Free Pantry project

While Jessica knows that pantries alone will not solve the problem. growing hunger problem, she believes they can make a difference. Food banks serve thousands of people, but their hours may not be convenient for some. Pantries serve as a way to bridge the gap for people experiencing food insecurity. They have access to them 24 hours a day if they need anything, and they are more localized than food banks.

Pantries help bring communities together and promote unity by serving people from all walks of life. From that live paycheck to those who can’t pay the grocery bill to single parents, many people rely on pantries. Also, the anonymity factor helps people because not everyone is comfortable asking for help. Small pantries allow them to walk at any time of the day to get what they need.

The goal of the pantries is to eliminate hunger from the neighborhoods as much as possible. So far 1,530 mini pantries have been mapped around the world and it’s growing. Especially during the pandemic, when many people have lost their jobs, these pantries provide much-needed relief.

Final thoughts: the Little Free Pantry project is feeding people around the world

What started as an idea to tackle food insecurity has grown into a global movement. Thousands of communities have joined the Little Free Library inspired project. Instead of books, the pantry provides food and household items to families and individuals in need. Jessica hopes that every community can have access to a pantry, especially given the current economic recession.

While food banks and charities help many people, not everyone has access to them. Pantry managers place the boxes in localized areas and are open 24/7 to the community. Are you interested in starting a project of this type in your area? Then visit the Little Food Pantry site for more tips.

Do you have a small pantry in your community? Let us know in the comments!

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