Inspired Woman Magazine

Community Contributor: Little Free Pantries

file_004-2Donating to a food pantry and getting food from one just got a whole lot easier in Bismarck and Mandan. Little Free Pantries have been popping up around town. Kimberly Dockter worked hard to bring these pantries to the area. She shares more about the project.

Give us a little history of the Little Free Pantry Project.

The Little Free Pantry began in Arkansas in May of 2016.  Since that time it has been implemented in many locations throughout the country.  We originally heard about this project shortly after its inception but kind of shelved the idea as we wanted to see how it would work in other parts of the country with similar demographics and weather.  After watching for a time we decided it would likely be feasible in our community.

The Little Free Pantry is similar to the Little Free Libraries in communities throughout the country, but instead of books, they host food and hygiene items. The concept is simple: leave what you can and take what you need.  

The Little Free Pantry is a free-standing program, with no real need for administration but in an effort to get the program up and running in our community, I contacted the Bismarck Public Schools Career Academy to pitch the idea of having one of their classes build some pantries. They jumped on board and were excited about the project. I hadn’t thought about the fact that they would ask how many. I honestly just hoped they would build one or two. So when they asked, I paused, said six, and then panicked once I was out of the building. At the time I only had one group fairly committed to hosting a box on their property.   

Through social media, some in-person networking, and some other media attention we have found locations for all  six of the pantries as well as groups willing to help in keeping them stocked. 

How are the Little Free Pantries different from other food banks?

The Little Free Pantries are available all hours, all days, with no questions asked for both those consuming the products as well as those leaving items. The pantries are not meant to be relied on as a guaranteed source for anyone, as supply is limited and inconsistent. We are hoping Little Free Pantries will not negatively impact those resources already available in our community. Rather, we hope that people will continue to give to the food pantries around town in addition to Little Free Pantries.

How can people get involved?

There are a few ways to get involved with this project: one would be to simply drop food or hygiene items at any of the locations or take what you need. It is our hope that this project will continue to grow by other businesses and organizations hosting pantries on their property.  

From this point, those of us at The Little Free Pantry Project (this includes my wonderful cousin Jen Bailey and me) will simply be promoting the use and stocking of the pantries through social media and at community events. We hope that as new Little Free Pantries pop up in our community their sponsors will let us know so we can add them to our information sites and publications.  

How can people contact you if they want to learn more?

Join our group on Facebook at Little Free Pantry – Bismarck Mandan, like our page with the same name, or email me at

What kind of donations would be most helpful?

Donations of food and hygiene products are always needed. Some things to consider are boxed food, add-water meals, baby food, snack items, diapers, dental care, and feminine hygiene products. Pantries with high traffic are great locations to drop off a loaf or two of bread and a jar of peanut butter or canned items when seasonally appropriate.  

We know that people will make wise decisions about what they place in the pantries, taking into consideration weather conditions as well as the flow of items in and out at each specific Little Free Pantry. We will use the Facebook page and group to keep contributors informed about needs in each area. We have confidence that those hosting the pantries as well as others, both those using and contributing to the boxes, will work to keep them clean, and remove and discard items that have expired.

What are your needs right now if someone would like to help?

Fill the pantries, keep us informed if you see one empty, and remember to give freely. With this project we may need to stretch a bit in our thinking, knowing that once an item is given it is not ours to govern. We are leaving things in the pantry with the confidence that they are being taken by those who need them, even if what that looks like does not fit our definition of  “need.”   file_000

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