‘Take What You Need’: Little Pantries rely on donated goods

Perhaps you’ve noticed the little boxes on the street filled with grocery items?

The Little Pantries are actually refurbished newspaper boxes that are being used in an innovative way to provide basic necessities to those in the community who might be in need.

“A Little Pantry has been refurbished to hold non-perishable items,” said Loressa Gonyer, health educator for Greene County Public Health. Our slogan is “Take What You Need, Leave What You Can.”

Gonyer says people can donate everything from canned food to feminine hygiene products. “Whoever needs it can take something,” says Gonyer. “Other counties in Ohio have done something similar. They are open 24/7 and the big thing is that it’s a community initiative.”

In Greene County, it all began in 2022, when the public health department applied for a HEAL grant, a program designed to promote healthy eating and/or active living. (Healthy Eating Active Living .) The project strives to “reduce the burden of obesity and chronic disease and increase the proportion of Greene County residents with a healthy weight.” The hope is to come up with solutions that will improve nutrition and increase physical activity.

“Evidence shows that people are more likely to make healthy choices when organizations, communities, and social structures support them,” Gonyer said. “We target resources to underserved communities and populations with higher rates of obesity, food insecurity, poor nutrition, and poor physical activity. Through HEAL initiatives, Greene County Public Health was able to place four little pantries in the Greene County area.”

To design the boxes, the group utilized Impact Racks, a small business on Etsy that’s located in Pennsylvania. “We provided the owner with the information that we wanted displayed on the actual little pantry.”

Unveiling the project

In the summer, the department hosted a health fair to unveil the project in collaboration with other local organizations. Gonyer said the Fairborn unveiling was one example of a great success story. “Fairborn Police Department was heavily involved with getting donations from the Fairborn Kroger and Pepsi Co.,” she said. " The Ohio State Highway Patrol, Xenia Post, donated a carload of items at our Jamestown little pantry unveiling. Others hosted food drives. It was great to see these various entities involved.”

Gonyer says the project continues to be a great success. “We want to encourage the community to sustain our Little Pantries.”

What is needed:

  • Canned vegetables and canned fruit
  • Instant potatoes
  • Add-water mixes
  • Juice, tea, coffee
  • Canned protein (tuna, sardines, chicken, ham)
  • Rice and beans
  • Baking needs
  • Sauces and spices
  • Nuts
  • Beef jerky

Other donated item suggestions include:

  • Cat/dog food and treats
  • Cat litter
  • Baby food
  • Diapers, wipes, etc.
  • Hygiene items (toothbrush, feminine products, etc.)
  • Home supplies (garbage bags, plasticware, etc.)

The public is asked NOT to leave the following items for the Little Pantry:

  • Open or used items
  • Homemade foods
  • Expired, rusty, unlabeled foods
  • Medications
  • Sharp supplies
  • Alcohol
  • Fresh produce/meat
  • Temperature sensitive items

Meredith Moss writes about Dayton-area nonprofit organizations and their specific needs. If your group has a wish list it would like to share with our readers, contact Meredith: meredith.moss@coxinc.com. Please include a daytime phone number and a photo that reflects your group’s mission.

Where to take items

  • Jamestown Community Library, 86 Seaman Drive, Jamestown
  • Greene County Public Health, 360 Wilson Drive, Xenia
  • UR The Church, 383 Columbus Street, Xenia
  • Fairborn WIC, 25 S. Central Avenue, Fairborn

To learn more about the HEAL program or little pantries through Greene County Public Health, please email Loressa Gonyer at lgonyer@gcph.info or call 937-374-5655.

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