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You’ve probably heard of a Little Free Library, but a Little Free Pantry may be a foreign concept.
Karen Kaiser and Monika Nash of Littleton came across the idea while thinking of things their daughters, both students at Heritage High School, could do for community service.
“It was one of those special interest stories that pop into your feed and something struck,” said Kaiser, describing how she learned about Little Free Pantries on Facebook.
Along with a group of nine Heritage students, Kaiser and Nash set about researching where to put a Little Free Pantry in Littleton, settling on a spot outside Doctors Care at Littleton Boulevard and Fox Street.
The Little Free Pantry Project began last May in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The pantries are just a small wooden box on a post, similar to the Little Free Libraries they are modeled after. But instead of books, they are stocked with non-perishable foods, baby formula, diapers or school supplies.
Just like the libraries, anybody can put something in — and anybody can take something out.
“I think it’s a really great idea, because some people may be too embarrassed or don’t want to ask for help,” said Kaiser’s daughter, Alex.
Little Free Pantries are always open as long as there is food in them, which Kaiser and Nash said is important, because the working poor may not have time to get to a food bank during its set hours.
“You could literally go at three in the morning,” Kaiser said.
Doctors Care was chosen over other locations for a few reasons: It is located close to more economically-disadvantaged parts of Littleton, many of the patients that come in and out of the building may face food insecurity and CEO Bebe Kleinman was receptive to the idea.
“The kids live in this little bubble, but a few miles from their house there are families struggling, Kaiser said.
Kleinman said that Doctors Care screens patients for food insecurity and the Little Free Pantry helps complement that.
“It’s a really kind gesture,” she said.
The pantry was set up on May 6 and stocked with cereal, canned beans, applesauce and other dry goods. Between then and when the group arrived to do a ribbon-cutting in a driving rain storm on May 8, it had already had food both taken out and put into it. The group believes it will prove to be popular.
“I think,” Nash said, “it will spread like wildfire.”
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