When Montclair activist Jose German-Gomez started the first Little Free Pantry in his town last year, he wanted to help address rising food insecurity, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Now, the Little Free Pantry, a grassroots, crowdsourced national movement that aims to supply free food and personal-care items to those in need, has taken off in New Jersey. There are eight locales in Montclair, and after its success there, the concept expanded to towns including East Orange and Cedar Grove. At press time there are 16 pantries, German-Gomez says.
Located outside of churches, libraries and even private homes, the freestanding wooden boxes—which resemble the Little Free Libraries popular in many towns—are open 24/7 and restocked daily by volunteers and partners. They are filled with nonperishable foods, as well as paper and personal-care items.
German-Gomez estimates that 18,000 pounds of food are being distributed this way each month in Jersey. He says the boxes give people to access without the red tape of government assistance or limited hours of food banks. Organizers are now looking into installing refrigerators next to pantries to supply staples such as milk, too.
“It costs us virtually nothing to do, and it makes such a difference in people’s lives,” says Holly Martin Belli, director of the Bloomfield Public Library, which hosts a Little Free Pantry.
Want to donate to or install a Little Free Pantry near you? For info, visit neearth.org.Click here to leave a comment