How to Help the Hungry with Little Free Pantries

Learn how little free pantries—the charitable cousins to little free libraries—are popping up to help folks in need.

Chances are that you’ve seen a little free library or two on your walks around the neighborhood. These boxes are stuffed with books and labeled with signs suggesting passersby take or leave a book. It’s a great way to engage the community and read something new. It’s especially exciting when these mini-libraries have a great cookbook inside.

But in Charleston, South Carolina, you’ll find a new little free structure dotting the city: little free pantries called Blessings Boxes.

What Is a Little Free Pantry?

Lowcountry Blessing Box Projectvia Lowcountry Blessing Box Project/Facebook

Little free pantries are the work of Katie Dahlheim of Charleston. Katie got the idea to build these outdoor pantries back in 2017 after reading about Jessica McClard, a woman in Arkansas operating an anonymous food pantry. Katie loved the idea of a pantry where it’s easy for donors to drop off contributions and for those in need to pick up items with no strings attached.

Only one problem for Katie: “I live on a cul-de-sac where nobody is just sort of happening by.”

Katie didn’t let that stop her, though. Instead of having one central food pantry, Katie thought that she’d create a network of easy-access pantries—something like little free libraries she’d seen.

“That’s how the Lowcountry Blessings Box got started,” Katie said.

With that idea in mind, she scoured her local Habitat for Humanity ReStore for old cupboards and cabinets and refashioned them into mini pantries ready to be installed in neighborhoods. Each pantry is adorned with a decal that reads: “Leave what you can. Take what you need.”

How the Lowcountry Blessing Box Project Expanded

Food Blessing In A Boxvia Lowcountry Blessing Box Project/Facebook

To distribute the pantries, Katie posted online asking for volunteers to add one to their neighborhoods. Soon, Katie’s project began to garner some attention. A donor inspired by the Blessing Boxes donated $500 to the cause which allowed Katie to build and stock more pantries.

Soon this act of kindness began to attract some serious attention through the local news and social media. Now, there are nearly 200 Blessing Boxes in South Carolina low country, the coastal area south of Myrtle Beach.

The organization’s website has a map of all the boxes for donors and those in need.

How to Stock a Free Pantry

Food Blessing In A Boxvia Lowcountry Blessing Box Project/Facebook

In addition to nonperishable foods, the boxes often contain diapers, sunscreen, formula, school supplies and dental hygiene products. Katie suspects that many of those who are using the boxes are single parents, elderly, college students, people going through a medical crisis and people picking up items for others.

“I don’t actually know,” she says. “And that’s the point: You don’t need to know because you’re putting that can of corn in the box for whoever needs it, and that’s that.”

Learn more about the Low Country Blessing Box Project.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.