What looks like an oversized birdhouse sitting in front of Santa Clarita United Methodist Church is much more than meets the eye.
When three Girl Scouts in Troop No. 7102 saw the need for food and toiletries amid the pandemic, they decided to create a Little Free Pantry for their Silver Award project.
Similar to the Little Free Libraries seen around town, the idea for the Little Free Pantry is simple: Anyone can build one, anyone can add food and personal hygiene products and anyone can take what they need.
Now, the girls hope to spread community awareness of the pantry and encourage donations.
“We came up with the idea after meeting with homeless service organizations and learning about the challenges facing homeless people in our community,” said team member Olivia Gump, 14.
“We learned that during the pandemic, a lot more people in our community became food insecure,” added team member Lauren McPhee, 13. “We thought that creating a Little Food Pantry was a great way to make a difference for people who need help.”
The girls got to work building the pantry on weekends with the help of Gump’s father.
“Olivia’s dad is a construction worker, so she was able to help us build it and showed us how to use the power tools, which was a great learning experience,” added team member Samantha Verlaque, 14.
This was Gump’s favorite part, she said, as the girls got to work together and hang out while doing so, adding, “We got closer during it.”
The Girl Scouts installed the pantry on Aug. 6, stocked full of dry goods they’d collected from their neighbors and friends in a food drive.
Since then, McPhee, who attends the church, said she’s heard positive things of the pantry, with her mother even finding a post about the pantry on a local Facebook group.
“We’ve been coming back every week to check, and so far, people have been donating and taking a lot,” she added.
They hope that individuals as well as other local youth groups, clubs, or schools will continue to donate to the pantry so that it can be an ongoing benefit to the community.
“It would be an amazing service project for a scout or youth group — they could adopt it for several months or a year, and assign troop members to check and restock it on a weekly basis,” Verlaque said, adding that she hopes the pantry can bring the community together to help others in need in their local community.
The pantry accepts donations of non-perishable foods and items of personal hygiene, including deodorant, soap, toothpaste and paper goods. Donors are discouraged from leaving sharp items (such as razors), chemicals, previously worn clothing or anything illegal. For more information, visit littlefreepantryscv.wixsite.com/lfpscv.
Other ways to donate
Through the pandemic, local organizations, such as Rally Round SCV and SCV Neighbors in Need among others, have been finding ways to collect food and other needed supplies for those in need with food drives and collection events.
At the SCV Food Pantry, a nonprofit dedicated to alleviating hunger throughout the SCV, Director James Espinoza said the need has drastically increased, and the pantry is still seeing the effects of the pandemic in the community.
Just last Saturday, the pantry served 53 households, compared to the average of nearly three dozen households the pantry was serving pre-pandemic, Espinoza added.
The pantry is always in need of donations, especially as the pandemic has canceled a number of the pantry’s largest fundraising events, such as the National Association of Letter Carriers’ annual food drive.
“We are definitely always in need,” Espinoza said, adding that items in highest need are dry goods and canned goods.
Additionally, the pantry is searching for volunteer drivers to pick up goods donated by local grocery stores, Espinoza added.
One hundred percent of all food donations go directly to clients in need, while the pantry also accepts monetary donations.
Donations can be dropped off at the SCV Food Pantry, located at 24133 Railroad Ave. in Newhall, from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday. During non-operational hours, food donations may be made using the night drop box located at the rear of the pantry in the alley between 4th and 5th Street.
For more information on how to help the Food Pantry, visit scvfoodpantry.org or call 661-255-5001.