Little Free Pantries in Greensburg helping neighbors in need

Three little free pantries in Greensburg help neighbors and community members in need since their installation this past spring. Now, the Downtown Greensburg Project is hoping to keep the pantries stocked through the winter by creating an Amazon Wish List for community members to purchase items that will be used to fill the pantries.

Primarily located near churches, recreation centers, or civic buildings, these volunteer-built, volunteer-stocked public resources have twined their way into the fabric of rural communities across the country over the past few years and become charitable fixtures. Usually stocked with nonperishable items, toiletries and feminine products, these pantries fill a gap in the community for those who need a little assistance during difficult times.

“The community has done a wonderful job of donating to the three little free pantries in Greensburg,” said Jessica Hickey, Director of the Downtown Greensburg Project. “With boxes being donated and installed at the parklet on S. PA Ave, St. Clair Park and Lynch Field by the Greensburg Volunteer Fire Department earlier this year, there has been a lot of people giving items to help keep the pantries full we’re just hoping to keep that going through the winter.”

The first blessings box—or Little Free Pantry, as they’re also known—was founded in Fayetteville, Arkansas, by Jessica McClard in 2016, who was inspired by the Little Free Library movement. McClard saw the boxes as a “potential gap filler” for the food insecure who weren’t being adequately served through other means, like food banks and shelters. “I saw the [Little Free Pantries] as a way to help people immediately who were between checks or had just moved,” she explains. “I wanted to find a way to help feed as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.” Today, the Little Free Pantry website pinpoints roughly 350 pantries on an interactive map, but McClard believes the majority of boxes are uncounted and estimates there are likely over 1,000 pantries worldwide.

“We try to keep an eye on the boxes, make sure things aren’t expired and replenish them,” said Hickey. “With three pantries in our community it’s hard to keep them full, which means that there is defiantly a need for the pantries. This is why we created an Amazon Wish List for people to easily donate without having to go out shopping and filling the box themselves if they don’t have the time or means to go to the pantry. They can go to our list, choose the items they want to donate and they get shipped directly to us so we can fill the boxes when they need replenished. Community members can still donate how they did before by purchasing items and putting them in the boxes themselves or even donate at our drive during Small Business Saturday on November 30.”

Items on the Amazon Wish List include ready made meals, individual soups, fruit and veggie cups, tuna packets, toiletries and hand warming packets. Most items on the list are individual, ready to eat and easy open, that way anyone who is needing something from the pantry won’t need a can opener to open anything and can eat it without a microwave if one isn’t available to them.

“The foods that we have noticed go the quickest are cans of beef stew, soup and even bottles of water,” Hickey added. “It’s easy stuff that doesn’t require a lot of warming up. You might not even need a microwave to use it.”

There’s a culture of shame in America: People feel like if they’re poor, they aren’t working hard enough. But we know that isn’t true. The little free pantries help to keep them from shame. With their 24/7 accessibility and lack of requirements (like a driver’s license or proof of county residency) for getting meals around the clock, people can give and take what they need at any time and without being observed.

The Downtown Greensburg Project is hoping to have a stockpile of items so the pantries can be refilled when needed. They’re calling on the community to help with that by clicking the button below to purchase items that will be shipped directly to DGP for the pantries or to continue donating by purchasing items and putting them in the boxes. Anyone looking to help more with the pantries can email hello@downtowngreensburgpa.us

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