The Village of Greenport gained its first Little Free Pantry yesterday as it was “planted” near the gazebo close to Adams Street, thanks to a community effort led by Penelope Rudder.
Ms. Rudder, who conceived the idea a few months ago, spoke to the crowd of about 20 people about food insecurity, which is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.” She said 41 million people struggle with food insecurity in the United States. One in six Caucasian children; one in four Latino and Black children; and one in three college students don’t have adequate nutrition, according to the nonprofit organization Feeding America.
“Those are the known statistics. The thing that’s scary about hunger is that most of it is anonymous,” Ms. Rudder said. “Most people aren’t going to tell you they’re hungry.”
Little Free Pantries are similar to the Little Free Libraries seen throughout Southold Town. Residents can take nonperishable food items, toiletries, feminine products and other household goods and donate as well. Stocked items during the pantry’s debut included peanut butter, toilet paper, soup, beans and applesauce, among other items.
Greenport Village Mayor George Hubbard Jr. helped cut the ribbon on the pantry. Artist Kara Hoblin decorated the sides of the pantry with a design of flowers and the wording “Our Little Free Pantry.”
“This is for anyone and everyone. You don’t need to present any need,” Ms. Rudder said. “Just enjoy and give back when you can.”
Ms. Rudder’s next goal is to strategize how to get these pantries into schools, summer camps and churches and other places that are accessible to children. There are two children’s cubbies in the pantry, for kids to learn about food insecurity and helping neighbors at an early age.
“Children are going to learn how to give to each other,” she said. “There are so many young kids are going to school hungry.”
Part-time Laurel resident Mary Sanchez helped Ms. Rudder choose foods that are high in protein, low in sugar and overall healthy to stock the pantry with. Ms. Sanchez used her experience working for Child and Adult Care Food Program, a USDA-funded program.
“We want the people who come here to really get some good nutrition,” Ms. Sanchez said. “I’m very passionate about food insecurity and I would love to have this in Riverhead because it’s so great.”
Everyone there placed a hand on the pantry and joined hands with as Rev. Roger Joslin of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church blessed it and the community.
“This is all based on trust,” Ms. Rudder said. “There’s not a wrong person who can use this. This is all based on faith in people.”
She will check on the pantry regularly to make sure it is in good condition.
“The word written on the very top of the box is the word love, because that is the concept that just connects everything,” she said.
Photo caption: Penelope Rudder stands next to the newly-erected Little Free Pantry in Greenport at the ribbon cutting Thursday evening. (Credit: Rachel Siford)