Most of us are fortunate enough to have cupboards full of food and money in the checking account for grocery store trips. But there are plenty of people in our community who don’t always have such food security. You may have noticed little cupboards sprouting up around town, similar to the Little Free Libraries where people share books. The Little Free Pantry movement was started in Arkansas in 2016 by a woman named Jessica McClard, who placed a cupboard containing food and personal care items out for anyone who needed them. A month later, there was a Little Free Pantry in Oklahoma, and now it is a global movement. If you have one in your neighborhood or near where you work, this is a place where you can share anything from your pantry that you may not have a need for but that someone else, maybe even your neighbor, could use right then. Consider donating cans of food, a hair comb, toothbrush, dry socks, or bottles of water. The Little Free Pantry website, littlefreepantry.org, has a map covering the whole United States where you can find a pantry if you need one, or add your own if you decide to create one.
There are other ways our community helps our neighbors through food. Acorn Community Cafe (acorncommunitycafe.com) is a vegan cafe and food resource that started in April 2021, and the founders, restaurant workers who were furloughed during the pandemic, are hoping to eventually open a not-for-profit cafe. Proceeds from their restaurant fund a “Blue Plate Special” lunch option that is served free of charge on request. Acorn Community Cafe is working with Eugene-based 86 Hunger Foundation (mission86hunger.com) to help with the free lunches and also staff the Free Market Project to provide a free produce stand and pantry (indoor winter market hours are Wednesday through Sunday 10 am to 5 pm) and provide meals on a weekly or monthly basis to neighbors in need through the Community Partner Project.
Founded in 2013, Positive Community Kitchen (positivecommunitykitchen.org) provides nourishing plant-based meals, delivered for free for up to 12 weeks, to people in the community who are experiencing a life-threatening health crisis, such as cancer. Teen and adult volunteers help prepare and package the meals (you can do this even if you’ve never cooked before!).
Burrito Brigade (burritobrigade.org/pantries) volunteers help keep Little Free Pantries stocked with nonperishable items. They also operate two Community Fridges locations for fresh perishable items (1790 Alder St., 870 W 16th Ave.). Their program Waste to Taste is a free grocery store where people can shop for food items that have been rescued from being wasted. And Burrito Brigade still offers the food resource they became known for — preparing and distributing vegan burritos on Saturdays and Sundays. Volunteers are always needed.
Through December 31, 2022, te St. Vincent de Paul Atkinson Food Room (541/689-6747) will be available as a free food pantry where guests select their own items three days a week. Donations of food can be given to FOOD for Lane County (foodforlanecounty.org) for distribution, and SVdP accepts donations of many usable items such as clothing, electronics, and household appliances.
If you’re concerned about food waste and want to rescue this food and distribute it to people who could use it, join the Eugene Area Gleaners (eugeneareagleaners.com). Gleaners harvest leftover crops from the backyard or farms and distribute this bounty to members. Donated food items such as bread are also shared among members. The items are available from pickup sites in Eugene and Springfield.