The latest food pantry to arrive in Columbus has no building, no staff and, best of all, no stigma.
“It’s designed to be very fluid. If you have a little extra, you drop it off. If you’re in need, you grab it,” said Emmie Sheretz, who is organizing the pantry for the community group Columbus Action Together (CAT). “We hope maybe it’s a way to get rid of the stigma people sometimes feel when they are in need. It’s hard for people to ask for food sometimes.”
The pantry, which is about the size of a double kitchen cabinet, is based on the Little Free Library system, which now has 50,000 locations throughout the U.S. where people donate books and others come by and get what they want to read.
What the Little Free Libraries do to provide access to books, CAT hopes can be applied to providing food.
“In our group, we were talking about the budget cuts (to state programs) and what it might mean to poor people and homeless people,” Sheretz said. “One of the members had heard about one of these pantries in Memphis that was successful and suggested we try it here in Columbus.”
That’s where Ryan Munson came in.
“I had offered Columbus Action Together a place for their community garden on property I own, so I thought it would make sense for the pantry to be there, too,” Munson said.
The pantry is located on Second Avenue North, just across the street from the Hitching Lot Farmers Market.
Both Sheretz and Munson believe the location will help create enthusiasm for the program.
“It’s not really a high-traffic area, but it is very visible, being next to the farmers market,” Sheretz said.
While CAT is taking the lead and its members are supporting the project, the hope is that the community will get involved, too.
“You can give anonymously and get anonymously,” Munson said. “We’d love to see some churches or groups help keep the pantry stocked. Really, we hope anybody who has a little something extra will stop and drop off at the pantry.”
Munson and Sheretz said the pantry is sort of a test case.
“Maybe other people will see this and be inspired to put up pantries in other places,” he said. “There are a lot of areas in town where there are people who need help. That’s why we’re doing this. We’re just people taking care of people.”
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.