Lit­tle Free Pantry opens in Payson

Serve Daily - - COMMUNITY - By Megan Wall­gren for Serve Daily

Those driv­ing by Payson’s city of­fices may no­tice the new ad­di­tion of a lit­tle blue box on the south side of Utah Av­enue. The sign reads, “Free Food Pantry, take what you need, leave what you can and have a won­der­ful day.”

This Lit­tle Free Food Pantry is the re­sult of the ef­forts of Erin Meck­len­burg. She got the idea from an ar­ti­cle she read about a woman who had one in her Vir­ginia com­mu­nity.

Meck­len­burg said, “Any­time I’ve read ar­ti­cles about peo­ple strug­gling with food it al­ways hits me be­cause it's not that there’s not enough food. There’s plenty of food, it’s a dis­tri­bu­tion prob­lem. It’s just some peo­ple don’t have a way to get it.”

She’s thought about do­ing some­thing like this for awhile. “This fall I got brave and went for it,” she said.

The Lit­tle Free Pantry was in­stalled at the be­gin­ning of De­cem­ber with the ap­proval of the Payson City Coun­cil. Meck­len­burg lives in Elk Ridge, but wanted to put the pantry in Payson so it could serve more peo­ple.

She checks on the pantry ev­ery day and is pleased with the re­sults.

“When­ever I go and it’s prac­ti­cally empty I’m su­per ex­cited. I think, ‘This is work­ing!’” Peo­ple are tak­ing items and other anony­mous donors are fill­ing it.

Meck­len­burg said it has re­ally been a com­mu­nity ef­fort. “My par­ents bought the sup­plies, my hus­band, Chris, built it, the city coun­cil sup­ported it and my neigh­bors filled it up.”

One ad­van­tage of the Lit­tle Free Pantry is that it is anony­mous and those in need can just take a few items with­out hav­ing to fill out any of the pa­per­work that is some­times as­so­ci­ated with get­ting ser­vices. It is also avail­able any time of day.

“I want peo­ple to feel like this is for any­one any­time,” Meck­len­burg said. “If you need a can of chicken soup and there’s a can of chicken soup go ahead and take it. It’s about neigh­bors help­ing neigh­bors. Don’t feel weird about tak­ing things from it even if you’re not strug­gling.” She stresses any­one can take, or give to the pantry, how­ever, they only want non-per­ish­ables (any­thing canned or boxed), per­sonal care items, pa­per goods and baby things in the pantry. There should be no medicine, ra­zors, clean­ing sup­plies or used cloth­ing or goods.

The Lit­tle Free Pantry in Payson is open on a 6-month trial ba­sis. If there are no prob­lems or van­dal­ism, it will likely stay.

Many are fa­mil­iar with or have seen Lit­tle Free Li­braries in the com­mu­nity, but Lit­tle Free Pantries have not caught on as quickly in Utah. The Lit­tle Free Pantry map shows only one other pantry in the state, lo­cated in Lo­gan. How­ever, since the one in Payson went up, a man con­tacted Meck­len­burg about putting one up him­self in Orem. Those in­ter­ested can find out all the in­for­ma­tion they need at Lit­tleFreePantry.org.

The na­tion­wide Lit­tle Free Pantry project be­gan in May of 2016.

Pho­tos : Erin Meck­len­burg

The Meck­len­burg fam­ily stands by the Lit­tle Free Food Pantry lo­cated by the Payson City of­fices.

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