Public and Free Food Storage in Wake County

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In June 2023, 50 youth between ages 13-18 joined the annual Youth Food Security Summit led by the Wake County Food Security AmeriCorps VISTA Program and supported by 35 adult volunteers from partnered organizations. The Summit includes youth in the conversation of food security, teaching skills and knowledge necessary to contribute to work in local food systems and provides age-appropriate explanation of food security, as well as hands-on activities and lessons.

The Summit was coordinated by former VISTA member Elizabeth Eichen. She explains, “In the afternoon, youth painted four mini-pantries. The attendees were given free range, as long as their designs remained appropriate.”

A micro or mini pantry is a public and free storage of food. Pantries are often made out of recycled furniture such as cabinets, bookshelves, and even lockers. Pantries operate on a ‘take and give what you can basis’, similar to Little Community Libraries. This means that local communities are directly responsible for keeping them well stocked. Because these pantries are unrefrigerated and often outside, all donated food must be shelf stable. Micro-pantries are often stocked with canned food, bottled water, and packaged snacks. Each pantry:

  • can hold 42 full sized cans with room
  • is approximately 25 lbs. when empty
  • comes with two plexiglass windowpanes and a magnetic door latch

Two of the mini-pantries sponsored by the 2023 Youth Food Security Summit were installed by our 2022-23 AmeriCorps VISTA cohort in August. The remaining pantries will be installed by our new 2023-24 cohort at a child daycare and community garden in the fall.

youth workers put in a wooden post with shovels

With the help of a few helpful workers from the Salvation Army youth summer program, we easily installed our first pantry at their club!

Volunteers pose in front of mini food pantry

The Wake County Food Security AmeriCorps VISTA 2022-23 cohort installed a mini-food pantry at Crestfield Apartments, an elderly and disabled adult living complex. A resident and his grandson joined the effort for a quick and easy installation!