Jogging around Fayetteville, Jessica McClard was inspired by Little Free Libraries all over town. The small structures invite the public to drop off a book or take one to read. The 41-year-old McClard saw the Little Free Library as a model to meet needs. Hoping to meet other public needs, McClard used the Little Free Library example and designed the Little Free Pantry.
McClard sought funding, and received a $250 grant that was to be used for a community service project of her choosing. She invested in a small cupboard or, fittingly, a little pantry. Earlier this year, that first Little Free Pantry was mounted outside the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.
The goal of the pantry is to offer food, paper products, and other goodies that help locals in need. Popular items include peanut butter, diapers, and feminine hygiene products. Generally, the pantry is stocked with shelf-stable foods, but McClard also includes bread and produce. Those fresher items fly off the shelves of the Little Free Pantry.
The good work of the Arkansas native has caught on. Others from the community have pitched in to help restock the pantry. The idea of the Little Free Pantry is also spreading. In another part of Fayetteville, Christ’s Church has erected a Little Free Pantry.
Outside of Arkansas, similar structures have been spotted around the country. Some sites include Ardmore, Oklahoma; Clinton, Indiana; Greensboro, North Carolina; New Castle, Pennsylvania; and Norfolk, Virginia. While not all structures use the Little Free Pantry name, they have the same mission and inspiration.
McClard offers guidance for those that are looking to create their own Little Free Pantries. The Facebook page offers links, resources, and a supportive community. McClard encourages others to start their own pantry, noting that the rewards are much greater than the investment.