One local troop of the Girl Scouts of America noticed a disparity in Williamsburg and decided to address the issue.
“When the girls sat down for the project, some of them said that they’d noticed, living in Williamsburg, that there’s a huge discrepancy between the haves and have-nots,” said Myia Sower, leader of troop 0184. “And they wanted to help.”
Five girls from troop 0184 were trying to figure out a community project that would help them earn gold and silver awards through the organization when they came up with the idea to start a Little Free Pantry.
Similar to the popular Little Free Library national movement, which are outdoor nooks made by community members with free books, a Little Free Pantry would provide a location for anyone to come and grab non-perishable goods day or night.
According to the national movement’s website, the Little Free Pantry is designed to help areas of the community that experience food insecurity.
“Something like this really teaches them to take a look at their community and ways that they can help and lend a hand,” Sower said. “As parents we shelter them from the world as much as we can so it teaches them to take off that kid blindfold and think about what they can do to help.”
Trinity Smith, 14, Ming Cunniff, 13, Kayleigh Smith, 8, and two others are designing the pantry with the help of local contractor, Tracey Daniels. Sower said the pantry is expected to be installed near the beginning of July.
Sower said Daniels is providing her services free of charge and she has been working with local home improvement stores to have most of the materials donated. Otherwise, the project would cost the troop between $150 to $200.
Grace Terry, park supervisor at the Warhill Sports Complex, said the placement of the pantry next to the bus stop outside of the James City County Recreation Center, would be perfect because it would allow a variety of people to simply grab canned items and hop onto the bus.
Additionally, she said it is visible enough so people will know it is there but also it will be tucked away enough to give people more privacy when taking items they need.
Previously, Terry said the Parks and Recreation department had tried Little Free Library programs before that failed because the areas weren’t being maintained. Both Terry and Sower agreed while building and preparing the pantry is a large part of the project, maintenance is what will make it successful.
To keep the pantry in shape, Sower said the troop will have members get a schedule to check the location to make sure not only that the physical pantry is in good condition, but also that there is no expired food or exploded cans.
Sower said if the program goes well for the next few years then the troop would continue maintaining the location, even after the original girls have moved on.
The most important factor of the project is gathering community involvement. While the first set of approximately 20 canned food items will be purchased by the troop, all of the food afterwards will be from good Samaritans in the community.
“We’re really begging the community to come out and help,” Sower said. “I feel like if the community realizes that it’s there, then perhaps when they’re thinking of ways to assist the community, they’ll think of us.”