Pantry aids the give and take of food insecurity

Staff Writer

A pantry has been set up in the back of the parking lot of the Hinesburg United Church.

It’s not a part of any home kitchen, or restaurant kitchen. It’s a community pantry.

The sign on the front says it all: “Little Free Pantry: Take what you need, leave what you can.”

The Hinesburg Little Free Pantry is a project of the Burlington Sunrise Rotary Club and is part of a national network of Little Free Pantries.

The idea of Little Free Pantries was inspired by the Little Free Libraries, but instead of food for thought, this pantry is stocked with food for people suffering from food insecurity.

Phillip Bosen of Hinesburg and Andy Duback of Williston, members of the Burlington Sunrise Rotary Club, spearheaded the effort to get the Little Free Pantry set up in Hinesburg.

Bosen said he was so thankful to the United Church for letting them set up the pantry in their parking lot. He thinks the location is great because it’s conveniently located downtown in Hinesburg. There are a lot of people coming and going, it’s got lights and it has “a group like the church that has a mission for food insecurity.”

There are Little Free Pantries around the country. Duback said they think Hinesburg’s is the first one in Vermont, where it has been for almost a year. He said they are looking for another location.

“And we’re looking for other people to start Little Free Pantries,” added Bosen.

An idea to expand on

There was a second location in Hinesburg – at Champlain Valley Union High School, but there is a question if this program will continue next year.

The Little Free Pantry at CVU was started by senior Jack Guernsey, who set up the pantry as his graduate challenge.

Guernsey initially set up the CVU Free Little Pantry on shelves in the back of the main office, but he continued to refine the process so that students in need wouldn’t have to worry about the stigma of coming to another student for help.

He tried it in the counselor’s office before eventually setting it up in the nurse’s office. Guernsey sent an email to all the teachers about the project because he thought they would be most likely to notice if students were food insecure and also able to surreptitiously mention to students in need that the resource was there.

“As much as I do want to help, it’s much easier to have that conversation with a respected adult than with a student who’s one of their peers,” said Guernsey.

He said the things that were taken the most weren’t food but things such as soaps, conditioners, blankets, “things that are often overlooked” for students in need.

Now that he’s graduating and heading to Davidson College in North Carolina, Guernsey is hoping that someone else will step up and take it over.

Filling a niche and a need

Bosen said that the Free Little Pantry is not in competition with the Hinesburg Community Resource Center’s Food Shelf, that it is supplemental help. The Free Little Pantry is small and can only hold so much. It can’t help provide fresh produce like the Food Shelf.

“My image is of a single mom and she has a couple of kids and her car breaks down,” Bosen said. “And she’s not going to get on food stamps.”

It’s a great resource for someone who’s behind in their bills and needs something to eat, or for someone who has extra and feels a need to help anonymously.

Duback and Bosen restock the Hinesburg Free Little Pantry every 1-3 days, but it can still run low before they get back. So, feel free to leave what you can.

Or take what you need.

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