The Little Free Pantry is the brainchild of Jessica McClard. An avid runner, McClard often found herself running past Little Free Libraries, neighborhood structures that house books free for the taking. She observed how popular they had become. Not only were people using the libraries, but they were proliferating. Then she made the connection: both books and food nourish the individual. The Little Free Pantry was born.
With a $250 community-building grant, McClard built and stocked her pantry in early May, 2016. It was instantly successful. She
observes that people keep the pantry continuously stocked. McClard says most of the items are non-perishable such as diapers, toothpaste and toothbrushes, paper goods, etc. but it is not limited to such items. The turnover rate is so fast that food does not have time to spoil.
People can easily and quickly donate food and other goods and anyone is able to come and take what they need. The Little Free Pantry is open every day, all day, unlike a standard food pantry. Further, an individual or family in need can come to the pantry, take what they want without embarrassment or questions. McClard says that shame is removed because providers and recipients approach the Little Free Pantry in the same way—some are putting in and some are taking out, but there is no outside agency to judge between them.
The success of the Little Free Pantry surprised even its founder. Within days, McClard was contacted by media and her Facebook page was scoring enormous hits and likes. The concept caught fire on social media and has inspired other communities to install their own Little Free Pantries, bringing much joy to its founder. A quick look at the Little Free Pantry Facebook page gives ample evidence of how much of an inspiration McClard has been to other communities, as her concept is popping up all over the country. One Little Free Pantry at a time, a global issue solved on a local level.