Since Jessica McClard's first "Little Free Pantry" in Arkansas, thousands of individuals have followed in her footsteps. About a third of these pantries have opened since the coronavirus pandemic began. Yahoo Life is joined by four founders of pantries across the country to share the ways in which mini pantry movement has affected their lives and their community.
JESSICA MCCLARD: Food banks are absolutely overwhelmed. Communities across the country and across the world are seeing the impulse to participate in mutual aid. So I think this is absolutely the mini-pantry's moment. And it's good that it's here for people.
I first started the mini-pantry movement in 2015. It is really the first of its kind. It's a standalone box located at my home church. It's available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to anyone who needs it, stocked through open sourcing by the community. For me, this started as a way to build community and increase neighborliness.
DAJAHI DAVIS: We're the founders of the North End Pantry in Detroit.
LAYLAH BAKER: We started this pantry summer of 2019.
- We researched one of the main needs our community, which was food insecurity.
PAM TIEZE: I started the Friendly Fridge around April during the pandemic. Just like planting a seed, it was like plugging in a refrigerator and just kind of seeing what might grow from that.
WENDY PARKER: I started the Parker Memorial Pantry in March of this year. When COVID happened, I wanted to do my part to try to help. In the midst of all this, I lost my brother to cancer. And then three weeks later, I lost my mom to cancer as well.
And so that's why we have the Parker Memorial Pantry to kind of remember them and give back to the community, because that was who they were-- loving and giving people.
LAYLAH BAKER: The pantry gets restocked regularly with non-perishable food items and also toiletries.
- People who are in need of food can just go to this pantry and get food whenever they want to, and hopefully return the favor when they have more than enough and can share.
WENDY PARKER: Being someone who's been in a low-income situation, I'm out there every day putting new items in, making sure that there's a little bit of everything. We do food. We do personal hygiene. We do household cleaners. We do baby items.
So we wanted to help everyone.
PAM TIEZE: People come and bring stuff every day. People take stuff every day. A local florist leaves flowers for people to take. And on Mother's Day, people left protest signs. A memorial was built next to the fridge for George Floyd. Someone even left money in the fridge, which made me realize that the fridge became just the center point of the community.
JESSICA MCCLARD: I just hope that those who choose to participate in the project will become a bit more aware of food insecurity in their own communities.
DAJAHI DAVIS: All of us being 16 years old, this was a way for us to show that even though we're not as old as other people, we still have a voice. And we can still make a change in the community.
WENDY PARKER: This whole thing was created because I was grieving. I was struggling. And if anything, I've received the blessing.
PAM TIEZE: I think it's become very clear that if we're going to make it through this, we have to do it together. I think this is kind of part of the bigger movement of community.