How to organize a Little Free Pantry

You may have heard of little free libraries.  They are cupboards mounted around neighbourhoods where you can donate a book and take a book, for free.  This Thanksgiving my niece introduced me to the Little Free Pantry in her neighbourhood.

Community Fridges have been around for several years, beginning in Germany and Sweden in 2012 and now several exist in many countries and across Canada including one in Hamilton and eight in Toronto.

Giving opportunity

My niece asked everyone in the family to bring canned or boxed goods or baby food and diapers to our Thanksgiving meal.  She collected them and is putting them in The Little Free Pantry as items are taken to help restock the cupboard. I was honoured to be asked to contribute to this project. The pantry is there for anyone to take some food or donate food to help everyone have better food security.   “Take what you need, leave what you can”, is their tagline.   Why are they doing this, to “build a better community by fighting hunger today.”

A wooden cupboard with four shelves filled with food having a glass door mounted on a wooden stand

519 community collective 

This project sprung up out of Covid. The founder is Julie Sawatzky.

They are one of many groups working together to fill gaps for seniors, single parents and families who are living in shelters or transitional living by providing emergency aid and essentials to create a better and more stable tomorrow.

The 519 Community Collective has 12 programs including a community fridge nourish kitchen, 2 urban gardens, 23 little free food pantries installed across the region, an assortment of emergency food programs, and more.

Lincoln County Community Fridge 

Down the road from where I live is another food pantry project.  On July 5, 2021, the Lincoln County Humane Society launched the Lincoln County Community Fridge at its animal shelter in St. Catharines, Ontario.

A large cupboard sitting on the side walk to take donations of food.

What is a Community Fridge?

This is how they describe their program.  “Our fridge, like others, is a place where anyone who needs food can come to our Community Fridge and take what they need.  We have a large, double glass doored fridge in a new room we built, out of a former cat gazebo. The insulated room is also equipped with 2 pantries to hold dry goods and some limited amounts of toiletries and hygiene products.

A fridge holding food donations

As I walk around my community I love seeing the many ways people are sharing to make their community better for everyone.

Tell me about sharing projects in your community.  

Julie Stobbe, professional organizerJulie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer and Lifestyle Organizing Coach who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She has been working with clients since 2006 to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She uses her love of physical activity to reduce clutter, in your home and office. She guides and supports you to manage your time. If you’re in a difficult transition Julie can coach you to break-free of emotional clutter constraining you from living life on your terms. Online courses are available to help instruct, coach and support your organizing projects. Get started by downloading Tips for Reorganizing 9 Rooms.

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  1. Seana Turner on November 21, 2022 at 6:58 am

    I saw one of these for the first time when touring colleges. Some of them had spaces in their dorm kitchens and lounges where people could put supplies that others were free to take.

    We don’t have one of these in my community, but we do have a large food pantry. I think making it easy for people to be generous is such a great idea. We can drop things directly off at the church, or there are collection bags in the grocery stores. It’s so easy to just pick up an extra item or two while shopping and drop it in the bags on the way out.

    This pantry also does collections throughout the year, when various groups help out, such as the youth, the postal service, etc.

    Generosity is one of the best ways we can express gratitude, right?

    • Julie Stobbe on November 22, 2022 at 3:36 pm

      I have a large food bank in my community too where I can donate on a regular basis. That is where I take my client’s food (that is not expired). I love the little pantries where you can anonymously get food when you need it.

  2. Linda Samuels on November 21, 2022 at 10:07 am

    These are incredible projects! I love this idea and how people come together to help one another.

    We have a good size food pantry in our community and other volunteer services that help with food insecurity. But I’ve never seen a food pantry like the free libraries. Absolutely brilliant and inspiring!

    • Julie Stobbe on November 22, 2022 at 3:38 pm

      I agree they are brilliant. The marvelous thing is people take what they need for that day they don’t take all the food for themselves. I love how even though they don’t have enough food they think of others and only take what they need.

  3. Julie Bestry on November 21, 2022 at 2:17 pm

    I love this so much! We have community food shelters here, and I recently read about a community fridge at my alma mater, but I wasn’t familiar with these great little pantries. Thank you so much for sharing this!

    • Julie Stobbe on November 22, 2022 at 3:40 pm

      I was very happy when my niece introduced this project to me by asking the entire family to bring food donations and baby donations to our Thanksgiving meal. She puts them into the pantry as supplies get low.

  4. Sara Skillen on November 22, 2022 at 11:27 am

    There are several of these little pantries in the Nashville area – more than I realized once I got to Googling. Such an amazing idea, and I hope it catches on even more.

    • Julie Stobbe on November 22, 2022 at 3:42 pm

      It is fun to hear where other people have seen this idea. Yah Nashville. I wanted to blog about it to help make programs like this more visible for people who can donate and for people who need to take food.

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