Trinity St. John’s Episcopal Church, in Hewlett, has a take-one-leave-one food pantry — named the Little Pantry — designed for quick and low-key pickup for those in need.
The Little Pantry was started at the first peak of the pandemic in March 2020 as a reaction to widespread reporting about hunger, food deserts, and poverty, the church’s Rev. Chris Ballard said.
Ballard had seen other organizations do these small pantries before, “and really wanted to inspire our congregation to do something,” he said, “because everyone was in quarantine.”
The church built a six feet tall green box with shelves and a slanted roof, visible on Broadway and enclosed by two see-through Plexiglas doors that makes the Little Pantry accessible to the public.
It was important to create the Little Pantry to be as visible and easily accessible as possible, Ballard said, as there is “so much shame about poverty in our own society.”
The Little Pantry was built on the far side of church grounds closest to the bus stop at the intersection of Broadway and Trinity Place. The pantry is visible from the bus stop.
“It is made so that it's off the beaten path,” Ballard said, as trees on the green lawn of the church’s side property surround the pantry. “So, you can walk up to it if you are someone in need and get something that you might just need for the day to be able to feed yourself or your family.”
Because the pantry is meant as a “stop gap” for little things that people may need in the moment, Ballard said, it may be less humiliating than walking into a larger walk-in and shop-around pantry such as the Gural JCC’s food pantry in Cedarhurst, which Ballard complimented.
“It's not meant to be a full on food pantry where you would go and as a family and stock up.” Ballard said, “It's really meant for the immediate and the momentary need.”
The pantry’s low-key, grab-and-go design removes the discomfort of asking for help or the obviousness of accepting help, which many people like to keep under wraps. “In the five towns, there is need,” Ballard said, “— it is just oftentimes hidden.”
Ballard’s husband, Seale Ballenger, has been a “major supporter” of the pantry since its beginning, Ballard said, always making sure it is stocked. Ballenger takes many trips to Costco to maintain the pantry, Ballard added.
Ballenger “is the one who sort of drives the congregation and inspires them to help out,” said Ballard, adding that Ballenger “continues to be the main driving force.”
Church congregants, neighbors and passersby also help stock the pantry, and the church also circulates an Amazon wedding registry, which you can use to donate to the pantry.
To donate to the Little Pantry, drop food items off at the pantry itself or visit the Amazon wedding registry.