Little Free Pantry idea considered by council

Published 10:36 pm Sunday, October 29, 2017

Students from LaGrange College’s Student Scholars requested permission from the LaGrange City Council Thursday to establish a Little Free Pantry program.

The program would feature boxes of nonperishable items in public spaces for anyone who needs them, similar to the Little Libraries programs. If approved, the program would not cost the city anything since it would be entirely community powered with students from LaGrange College’s Servant Scholars program leading the way. Because of their locations near the right of way, the boxes will require city approval.

“It is a grassroots program that helps those who it can with needs of basic self-care, basic food and self-care products like baby diapers, toiletry items, period packs and stuff like that,” LaGrange College student Nicholas Rawls said. “In order for those things to work, you have to have a take what you need, leave what you can mentality.”

According to Rawls, Home Depot has already donated items needed to build the pantries, and they are hopeful that other groups will step forward to sponsor the program.

The proposed free pantry locations are at the LaGrange Memorial Library, by the Boys & Girls Club on Cannon Street, by the basketball court on Mitchell Street, by the LaGrange Housing Authority on Mona Lane, in the Hillside neighborhood and beside the Troup County Baptist Association.

Questions from the city council primarily revolved around how often the boxes would be checked, overlap with other programs and the actual process of installing the Little Free Pantries if they are approved.

The program would also likely begin on a trial basis so that its results can be evaluated at a set time, which was especially significant to the council considering those proposing the plan are all college seniors.

“If we had a sort of expiration time — let’s just say two years — the council would have to approve again to continue on past that time,” Councilmember Tom Gore said.

“It would continue long-term if they go well, but if somebody didn’t really keep up the maintenance, and it became an eyesore, or it became a place of conflict or whatever, future council might decide not to continue it.

Rawls agreed that an evaluation of the program after it has been established for a while would make sense even with the commitment of underclassmen to continue maintenance of the Little Free Pantries.

The council requested time to look into any possible legal issues that could arise from allowing the program, but a need for programs like Little Free Pantries was acknowledged.

“It is something that is really needed,” Councilmember Willie Edmondson said.

The first Little Free Pantry program was created in 2016 in Fayetteville, Arkansas by Jessica McClard, who was inspired by the Little Free Libraries that she saw near her home. The program has recently reached Georgia, with the program beginning in Carrollton late last year.

The LaGrange City Council plans to discuss the program further at its next meeting on Nov. 14 at 5:30 p.m.