Bath resident Robyn Fenon had everything she could ever need.
“I have a wonderful family. We are as healthy as we can be,” she says. “I have a wonderful job, a home, food on our table, and heat.”
However, she knew that others in her community were not as lucky. In 2019, after seeing a story on the news about Little Free Pantry, a grassroots movement to provide food to neighbors in need, she decided to get involved.
Little Free Pantry got its start in 2016 in Arkansas when Jessica McClard constructed a box on a post outside her home and filled it with canned goods and dry goods for her neighbors. Neighbors are encouraged to take what they need and those more fortunate are urged to give what they can.
The number of those in need in the Lehigh Valley continues to grow. Over 75,000 Lehigh Valley residents live below the poverty line and struggle to provide themselves and their loved ones with food. Hundreds of thousands more live paycheck to paycheck. Food banks like the Second Harvest Food Bank aid over 60,000 Lehigh Valley residents every single month. These individuals are our neighbors, family members, coworkers, and friends. For many residents, like Fenon, these numbers are heartbreaking.
“I just wanted to help and be a part of the solution,” adds Fenon.
Fenon shared the idea with those whose opinion mattered most: her family. She broached the subject of constructing her own pantry outside her home to her parents, who are also her landlords. Her parents were on board right away, especially her mother.
“If she was not on board, no one would be,” says Fenon.
Next was her husband, Jay.
“I knew he could build it if I dreamt it,” Fenon says. “But I was concerned he would be worried that this would bring all sorts of strangers to our home.”
Jay had no hesitation. He was all for constructing the pantry in a safe location along their driveway so neighbors could safely access it.
Together, they went shopping for the materials and had it constructed and open for use by the end of the weekend. Fenon filled it with easy-to-make meals for one, like Hormel Compleats, Rice-A-Roni, and Velveeta single serves. She named it “Your Pantry.”
To get the word out, she shared pictures of “Your Pantry” on Facebook and passed out flyers at her local yard sale. Once word spread, it did not take long for the pantry to get attention. Whenever the pantry is filled, she posts on Facebook.
“It does not take long to empty out,” she says.
It also does not take long for neighbors to give back. Some neighbors have filled it with canned goods, soup, and ramen. Others even do trades, providing children’s books and games in place of food. Fenon says that trading may help reduce anxiety for those who are bashful about asking for help.
Fenon says a lot of people visit the pantry during work hours or in the evenings, but the pantry is open 24/7.
Fenon encourages neighbors to get involved. Any food, she says, is a welcome addition to the pantry. She also encourages individuals to start their own pantries in their neighborhoods.
“It is so easy to get caught up in ‘I wish this,’ ‘I want that,’ ‘My life is so hard,’ when in actuality most of us should consider ourselves lucky,” she says.
For neighbors in need, the pantry is located at 246 Monocacy Dr., Bath, PA 18014.