Little Free Pantries pop up around Burlington

Published: Aug. 14, 2020 at 12:47 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 14, 2020 at 11:42 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - You’ve heard of free little libraries, where community members can pick up and drop off books at neighborhood book exchanges. Now, there are little free pantries doing the exact same thing with food in Burlington.

The Little Free Pantry project, a nationwide movement, caught on in Burlington in July, and local residents hosting the pantries say they’ve been very successful.

“We get at least a dozen people a day, if not more,” said Shay Totten, a local resident hosting a pantry at his home on North Avenue. “We’ve definitely put the word out through Front Porch Forum in our neighborhood saying, ‘Hey, we’ve put this up, we welcome people to drop by food if you’ve got it and you can spare it. But if you need it, also come by.‘”

Laura Hale, president of the ONE Good Deed Fund, says that the pantries are supposed to give locals access to food at all hours of the day.

“They are intended to be places that are open 24 hours, seven days a week, in someone’s front yard on private property, so there’s no interchange,” she said. “It can just be you go up, you take what you need, you also leave what you need.”

Hale’s nonprofit contracted with local carpenter Nick Carr to create the pantry stands. Since installing them, Carr says he has seen them emptied and filled multiple times.

“I believe this one has been here two weeks, on the day it went up it was full and it was emptied within that day,” he said. “It gets emptied really quick but it gets filled pretty quick, so that’s huge.”

Burlington residents housing the little free pantries say that most of the food donated actually comes from other local families, not just from them.

“People are filling it. I still get a few extra things every time we go shopping every couple weeks. It is just getting consistently filled,” Totten said.

Due to the pantry’s success over the past month and a half, Hale hopes to add the pantries across the county.

“I know that there’s been a lot of interest in Winooski, some places in Essex already have this,” she said. “My goal is to be able to have a comprehensive map for all of Chittenden County.”

Hale says her group will fund the project as long as money is available.

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