Hunger-Free Libraries: Food Pantries and Fridges

WebJunction /
Group of people standing next to a new little free library, with a bow on the outside
Little Free Pantry ribbon cutting ceremony, courtesy of
Sayville Library on Facebook

Food insecurity is a problem that has drawn increasing attention in recent years. Libraries have a long, rich history of partnering with government and nonprofit agencies to help improve food access, and lately they have been helping in new and creative ways. One way libraries are doing this work is by creating community pantries, fridges, and blessing boxes.

Blessing boxes apply the Little Free Library concept to food pantries, offering nonperishable food and hygiene items in small, freestanding boxes located in public areas, often located in or near public libraries. These grassroots projects are found in many communities across the country and created and stocked completely by volunteers, who often communicate using Facebook groups. Most Blessing Boxes feature this message: “Our only rule: take what you need; leave what you can.”

One benefit of blessing boxes and community pantries is that they provide expanded access (often 24 hours a day) to food for people who might have difficulty accessing food pantries during traditional hours. Community pantries also help address the stigma and other barriers to asking for help, because people can take what they need from the box without having to fill out paperwork or provide personal information.

How libraries are helping

Although libraries are well-positioned to host community pantries, it’s important to remember that the resources and labor don’t need to come from the library alone. When blessing boxes and pantries are community-led and supported, connections are formed, and everyone who participates can benefit from contributing to a shared purpose. Here are some highlights of ways libraries and communities are helping to address hunger, as well as tips and resources to kickstart similar offerings in your own community.

    Closeup of an outdoor A-frame wooden little free pantry with food inside
    Little Free Pantry, courtesy of Sayville Library
    on Facebook
  • This WebJunction interview with Jennifer Johnson-Spruce features information about the Blessing Box she started at Cooke County Library in Gainesville, Texas, where she serves as director.
  • Flager County Public Library in Florida is putting their own spin on community pantries by offering their community a chance to exchange both books and canned good in Food for Thought kiosks.
  • Penn Hills Public Library in Pennsylvania partnered with their local food bank to open a community pantry and fridge in their library to help increase access to fresh produce, eggs, and other perishable food items.
  • Forest Park Public Library in Illinois recently launched their new community fridge, which is open to anyone who needs help accessing perishable food items. They also offer a pantry with non-perishable food items.
  • Sayville Library in New York offers a Little Free Food Pantry and a Little Free Pet Pantry. They post frequent updates on their Facebook page and offer volunteer opportunities for local teens who are seeking community service hours.
  • Columbus, Ohio has a robust Blessing Box network and offers information on their website about how to get involved and a map featuring all Blessing Box locations.

Tips for building your community pantry or fridge

Is your library considering offering a community pantry, fridge, or blessing box? Check out some of these articles and resources to help you get started.

More reading and resources

Closeup of fresh produce inside a fridge and the words: community fridge: come and see what’s inside
Community fridge, courtesy of St Thomas
Library - Exeter on Facebook

WebJunction resources

For further reading and resources, check out these WebJunction articles and webinar: