As grocery store shelves sit bare during the coronavirus pandemic, good Samaritans across the country are taking it upon themselves to turn “Little Free Libraries” into “Little Free Pantries.” Many of those honor-system book cabinets are now stocked with things like canned food, pasta and even toilet paper for those in need.
Anonymous giving catches on
Shelly Anderson filled a Little Free Pantry in Woodbury, Minnesota. For her, it was a chance to do something positive.
“This is an uncertain time. I think being able to provide something to anyone is worth it.”
She first heard about the idea from a friend and decided to ask her kids’ elementary school about converting their Little Free Library into a free pantry.
“After we got approval, we went through our pantry and found all the things that would be essential - toilet paper, paper towels, some noodles and fruits.”
Anderson and her kids have been checking in on the pantry every couple of days and noticed that others have begun contributing as well.
“The food is forever fluctuating. People are taking what they need and putting in, so it’s great.”
Adapting for an epidemic
Inspired by the Little Free Library cabinets, Jessica McClard started the Little Free Pantry movement near her home in Arkansas in 2016.
“Arkansas is perpetually one of the more food-insecure states. I really hoped that the Little Free Library concept was familiar enough with folks that people would know what to do with it, and it would be something that would get duplicated rather quickly. And that’s what happened.”
Now, with the coronavirus pandemic, McClard says the Little Free Pantries are more important than ever.
“This concept is made for this moment because we can maintain social distancing and also, there are a lot of people hurting right now.”
Because of the coronavirus fears, she’s removed the door to minimize the touching and has started stocking it with cans and items that can withstand the weather.
In Minnesota, Shelly Anderson has noticed the idea taking off in her neighborhood as well with multiple pantries opening up.
“My brother has a Little Library in his front yard and he changed his over into the same thing.”
“There’s a lot of good things happening if you look for it,” McClard says.
“I’m seeing lots of lots of neighborly aid happening and that is extremely inspiring.”
Anderson already sees how her good deeds have rubbed off on her kids.
“My kids have invested a lot of time into just making sure there’s stuff up there. The experience for them being able to be a part of something that gives back. That’s really cool.”