An Arkansas woman's charitable project in her town moved other good Samaritans to launch similar initiatives in communities across the U.S.
Jessica McClard wanted to create a special place in her community to help those in need. Inspired by Little Free Libraries, she created the Little Free Pantry as a spot where people can quickly donate household items for anyone to take.
"My feeling is little free structures both create space for neighborliness and address social problems," McClard told The Huffington Post.
With the aid of a $250 microgrant, the 41-year-old launched the first Little Free Pantry in front of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville during May. It became an overnight success in the community. In fact, McClard said that she routinely ensures that the Little Free Pantry is properly stocked with goods.
"Personal hygiene items for sure," she told ABC News. "Deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, diapers, feminine hygiene products, paper goods are great too, paper towels and toilet paper. I get asked about high temperatures and whether food could really spoil, but the turnover rate is so high it's never been a problem."
Unlike a traditional food pantry, the Little Free Pantry is accessible at all times. It also acts as a safety net in case the traditional pantry runs low on supplies.
"I also think the Pantry breaks down the barriers between a service provider and client that you see in traditional food pantries," she told Truth-Out. "Everyone walks up to the pantry the same way. My hope is that some of the shame that people experience from being in need diminishes. Whether you're putting food in or taking food out, everyone goes up to the pantry the same way."
The Little Free Pantry also inspired other people to start their own small pantries. McClard wholeheartedly supports them on social media, and she is proud that her idea is taking off.
"To be personally connected to the project's public reaction is one of the greatest gifts of my life," she wrote to A Plus. "Hourly, I witness the generosity and hope engendered by a little idea, and for that, I am so grateful."