Feeding the hungry has become more of an imperative in recent years on the Key Peninsula. Local volunteers and groups have expanded their work by maintaining “Little Food Pantries” on the KP, making food available to anyone at any time.
A Little Food Pantry is a simple cupboard mounted on a roadside pole, in a parking lot, or wherever it is convenient and safe. The pantries work like Little Free Libraries. People are welcome to take whatever food is available in the pantry or to leave whatever nonperishable food they wish, providing no-barrier, round-the-clock access.
The first pantry was installed on the KP in February 2021 at the northeast corner of KP Highway and 64th Street NW, initiated by local volunteer RoxAnne Simon through Building Beyond the Walls, which provided plans and materials for construction. Simon, her family, Angela Mattison-Lindblom, Chuck West and anonymous donors keep the cupboard filled and organized.
Three other pantries were installed in fall 2021, sponsored by Midday Rotary of Gig Harbor in partnership with Rotary North of Gig Harbor. They are located at Lakebay Community Church, Food Backpacks 4 Kids and WayPoint Church.
Lonna Calas, the primary contact for the Rotary program, said there are two more cupboards ready for installation, pending approval of host sites.
“The increased number of people facing food insecurity and homelessness has accelerated over the past two years due to the economic impacts of COVID-19,” Calas said. “Little Food Pantries offer a unique way for individuals and groups to help reduce hunger.”
The Little Food Pantry movement began in Arkansas with the goal of reducing food waste and spread across the U.S. and Canada. Locally, Midday Rotary of Gig Harbor, in partnership with Rotary North, assumed the responsibility for installing and maintaining the pole-mounted cupboards. Rotary received a grant for the materials and the cupboards were assembled by members.
Michelle Johnson, director of communication at Food Backpacks 4 Kids, said that Rotary Club members check the box two to three times a week and a FB4K volunteer checks on Saturdays to assure that it is filled for the weekend.
“Since it was installed, FB4K has supplemented Rotary donations by about 200 pounds,” Johnson said. “Most of those donations were no-prep items that could be eaten immediately.”
Rotary North member Angela Mattison-Lindbom restocks the pantries at WayPoint and FB4K. Gene Graddon manages the pantry at Lakebay Church.
“I’m glad Rotary set it up; it is very well utilized,” Graddon said. “I fill it every day or so.”
“Most of the toiletries are donated by Rotary, but most of the food is supplied through the church’s food bank ministry along with some donations from members,” he said. “Locals frequently stop by and refill the box.”
Groups or individuals interested in hosting a Little Food Pantry can contact Lonna Calas at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to www.littlefreepantry.org.
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