If you swing by a church in Fayetteville, Arkansas, you may notice something unusual on their lawn.
At three locations across the US city, a small box with a glass front is open to the public, the contents of which change day by day depending on who has stopped by.
The initiative isn’t the brainchild of the church but rather local resident Jessica McClard, who used a $250 community service grant to create a space where people can share essential household goods and food supplies with those in need.
The ‘Little Free Pantry’ as she calls it, is a simple idea. Everyone is invited to place or take goods from inside the box as they please. It was inspired by the similarly named ‘Little Free Library’ that facilitates the free exchange of books around the community.
McClard tells the Fayetteville Flyer, “As an avid reader, I loved the idea behind the Little Free Libraries.”
“There are several in my neighbourhood, and one day I found myself wondering if they could be applied to other areas of need. I immediately thought of food insecurity.”
Non-perishable food goods like peanut butter, feminine hygiene products and diapers are some of the items most in demand, but the pantries are also regularly stocked with crackers, snacks, toilet paper and canned goods.
The first was installed in May this year and saw enough success to inspire another two in the same community. McClard has been getting so many applications for more via her Facebook page that she has now set up a website that teaches people how to set up their own.