The disconnect between people who need food assistance and those who don't seek food assistance is often tied back to shame. They don't want to be seen as needing a food handout.
Given the millions of people who fall short of where they need to be from a food standpoint, shame should be the last consideration. The reality is that solutions need to factor in the shame quotient.
The little free pantry is based on the concept of the little free library. In the library, you can take a book, return a book, donate a book. No witnesses are needed; this works on the honor system.
The little free pantry in the photos is on the grounds of a neighborhood church. The pantry works similar to the library. If you need the food, you can take the food. If you want to donate food, you can donate food. Once again, no witnesses and we are on the honor system. Taking the food isn't a handout and no one has to know.
If you are unsure about using the free pantry, if you are there when someone you know approaches, you can always say you were dropping off food, even if you wanted to get the food for yourself.
Maybe you bought too much of something at the store or you bought the wrong item for your meal. Just donate the food to the free pantry.
You can donate food to regular food banks and food pantries, but perhaps you are too shy to do so in person. Free pantries allow people to donate food without drawing attention to themselves.
The one real drawback is that food has to be shelf-stable to survive any time in the pantry. That is a reasonable condition.
If you haven't been to a food pantry or food bank, you might have the impression of the clients. These days, clients come in every color of the rainbow, every gender, creed, origin, height, sexual orientation, and weight.
In fact, the more people who feel comfortable to come forward, the stronger we can be to reduce the stigma of food assistance and fight harder to improve conditions so fewer of us go hungry.
Until that happens, the little free pantry can be a tool to get help for those who feel shame to need food assistance.
photos credit: me