“Little Free Libraries” Become “Little Free Pantries” Amid Coronavirus Food Shortages

little free library

People are helping their communities make it through the COVID-19 crisis by converting Little Free Libraries into Little Free Pantries.

Since 2016, more than 75,000 Little Free Libraries have been registered around the world. They are honor-system book cabinets built along sidewalks in neighborhoods, which are now being stocked with canned food, dry goods, toiletries, and toilet paper.

Shelly Anderson took the opportunity to support her community and filled a pantry in Woodbury, Minnesota. Along with her kids and school support, she converted the Little Free Library at her kids’ elementary school into a free pantry.

“My kids have invested a lot of time into just making sure there’s stuff up there,” says Anderson, “The experience for them being able to be a part of something that gives back. That’s really cool.”

Anderson and her kids check on the pantry every few days and have been pleased to see others are contributing as well.

“The food is forever fluctuating. People are taking what they need and putting in, so it’s great.”

The kids and their parents are sure to sanitize door handles and stock in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Some have even removed cabinet doors to minimize possible contact.

Jessica McClard, in Arkansas, says the Little Free Pantries are more important than ever. “This concept is made for this moment because we can maintain social distancing and also, there are a lot of people hurting right now.”

McClard has been establishing and maintaining cabinets in her area since 2016.

“Arkansas is perpetually one of the more food-insecure states. I really hoped that the Little Free Library concept was familiar enough with folks that people would know what to do with it, and it would be something that would get duplicated rather quickly. And that’s what happened.”

“There’s a lot of good things happening if you look for it,” McClard says. “I’m seeing lots of neighborly aid happening, and that is extremely inspiring.”

Executive director of the Little Free Library organization, Greig Metzger, urges people to respond to urgent increased demands for food. Before joining Little Free Library, he served as the executive director for a Minneapolis food shelf.

He wrote in a blog post, “You can find the food shelf nearest you by doing a Google search for ‘food shelf near me.’ Perhaps use your Little Free Library to host a food drive to help that local food shelf.”

You can build your own Little Free Pantry, or find Little Free Libraries in your area using this interactive map.

Susan LaMarca

Written by Susan LaMarca