Little Free Pantries Serving a Vital Need
“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” – Ronald Reagan
Throughout our wonderful city, nonprofits large and small are making a difference in the lives of citizens in need. And as every executive director and development director knows, it’s important to show your impact — your funders want to know how many people you’re serving.
Becky Hicks, founder and manager of Algiers Point Little Free Pantry, can’t tell you how many the pantry has served during its five years of existence because, unlike other food pantries or government programs, the Little Free Pantry provides users with anonymity.
“I have no way to have numbers,” Hicks says. “The pantry is totally anonymous, open 24 hours a day. I also don’t know who all donates to it during the day. Anyone can walk up to it and take or leave an item. It is better this way. No shame.”
She believes this small effort is important because food insecurity is sometimes hidden because people are working, but still don’t make enough money and they don’t qualify to get government assistance. This pantry helps people get by for a few days until they can get groceries.
“I can come to this itty-bitty box anytime even in the middle of night,” says one user of the pantry. “Sometimes I need it, sometimes I don’t.”
Built with spare plywood, two-by-fours and beadboard, along with a slate roof to match the old New Orleans houses in the neighborhood, the box is stocked with items such as soup, macaroni, boxes of cereal, diapers, baby food and toothbrushes. Just for fun on Mardi Gras, Hicks stocked it with purple, green and gold items. On National Strawberry Day it was stocked with all things strawberry.
“We are actually having a Build-a-Basket for Easter for moms in need on Saturday, March 27,” Hicks says.” We will provide items for parents to choose from to fill baskets for their kids. This may be the only thing the kids get. It’s hard out there right now. There will be tables out for them to pick. Please bring by supplies throughout the day to fill baskets. Grass, tissue paper, hand sanitizer, masks, candy, small toys, small stuffed animals, whatever you think a kid would like in a basket. Please wear a mask and social distance if someone is at the table already. Check it on our Facebook page.”
Hicks was introduced to the idea of the mini food pantries via a Facebook post by Star Trek actor George Takei. The idea began in Fayetteville, Arkansas where, inspired by the Little Free Libraries, Jessica McClard set out to address another societal issue — food insecurity.
Hicks says she isn’t worried about people taking advantage of the pantry.
“People aren’t being greedy,” she says. “I can’t feed the masses every day, but I can easily put a few items in the pantry. All my neighbors can too. Take what you need, leave what you can!”
How Readers Can Help
In addition to donating food items directly, financial donations are always accepted to cover the cost of additional food supplies and personal items. All are also encouraged to share the idea on social media
Becky Hicks’ pantry: 615 Opelousas, Algiers
Find other pantries: 1200-1206 Touro St. near Marais, 2026 Philip, 1020 Erato Street, the Healing Center (2372 St Claude Ave), and Gladewaves Big Red Boxes at: The Church of Annunciation- 4505 S Claiborne Ave, New Orleans, LA 70125, St Rita Catholic Church- 2729 Lowerline St, New Orleans, LA 70125, Saint Philip’s Episcopal Church- 3643 Aurora Dr, New Orleans, LA 70131, Second District Police Station- 3401 Broadway St, New Orleans, LA 70125, Kids of Excellence- 3301 Higgins Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70126, Trinity Community Center- 3908 Joliet St, New Orleans, LA 70118, Our Lady of Prompt Succor- 2320 Paris Rd, Chalmette, LA 70043, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church- 3245 Manhattan Blvd, Harvey, LA 70058
To find ready-to-go box plans go to Little Free Library website.