Hope is an embrace of the unknown. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things you can know beforehand.
- Rebecca Solnit
Address food insecurity
in a creative way.
Make food available for
anyone who needs it.
Create more daily connections between people in our neighborhood.
Provide an easy way for neighbors to share food.
Establish trust with users of the pantry so they know the food that is in there, is safe and high quality food.
The first pantry was made of wood, and was designed by my husband who founded ecomodern design studio. The Totem cabinet was version 1.0 and it was a success! People loved the pantry right away and used it. Unfortunately, it was designed to be indoors and after 6 months outside, the wood started to separate from the base and we had to find a different design solution.
Fast forward three years later, and we still see the food pantry it as a practical way to share food, and to rescue food that will go to waste. It's a way to share the harvest from local fruit trees in the area. Our neighbors bring apples, pears, persimmons, plums, lemons, figs and guavas when they are in season. Everything grows in Berkeley!! And when you have an abundance of fruit, why not share it so it doesn't go bad? Makes total sense.
One of the big take aways from doing this is that it really is about design and presentation. If you create a nice space for the food, people will trust it, and take it home. If it is just a dirty cardboard box on the ground, no one will take it.
Putting food on a shelf radically changes how people perceive the value and edibility of that food. And it does not matter that our food shelves are outside. We have created a clean, reliable space for food and 300 people use it every week.
Thanksgiving and Christmas
We organized two food drives in our West Berkeley (Westbrae) neighborhood. All of our neighbors donated food! It was a way to introduce the project with a flier and an empty gift bag to be filled with shelf stable food. The response was fabulous! We knew that our neighbors were on board with this.
Nov 2020 - May 2021
Bi-monthly grocery trips to get food for the pantry. Supporters from next door have donated to help us keep it stocked, along with the food donations from our immediate neighbors who are supportive of the food pantry.
We installed a Gratitude Message Board on the side of the food pantry for people to leave messages and express themselves and their needs. It works well, until one night someone had a melt down and tore down all the nice messages and threw them on the ground. This is just part of the deal. It's in a public space, so anything can happen.
We announce when we would be getting bread and pastry donations from The Cheese Board and when we would put out the food so people could come get it when it was as fresh as possible.
We began doing a weekly pickup at ACME Bakery on San Pablo in Berkeley. ACME donates 4 huge bags of bread which we re-package in bread bags to keep the bread clean and safe.
We upgraded our signage that faces the street (new wood, new vinyl stickers) and the roof over the pantry, so that rain does not get into the shelving and soak the food.
During a particularly violent rainstorm, our signage that faces the street was damaged. We plan to repair it because many people drop off food donations by car. There are always a few open parking spots right in front of it.
Changed the name to Little Free Food Pantry Berkeley. Bought domain name and printed cards to give to people in the park, with a map so they can find it. More food donations are coming in, in a steady way.
Painted the metal pantry! It needed a makeover after being outside for two and a half years. It looks really great! We are so grateful to Angel and his business partner for donating their time, labor and they even insisted on paying for the paint. They cleaned up the hedge that is behind the pantry and the strip of land that it's on. Outstanding.
Why did we start our own food bank?
We believe that a free food bank is a radical way to share wealth and resources. It is an example of how Gift Economics actually works, in the real world.
Everything that is dropped off goes home with someone who needs it.
As of June 2023, there is less abundance in our neighborhood now that food prices are so incredibly high. So there are less food donations coming in from neighbors who have the resources and time.
In order to be a reliable source of food, we are doing our best to connect with community groups and businesses that can donate food to us on a regular basis. ACME continues to support us and we are going to be picking up bread twice a week! (as of Sept 20, 2023)