A Little Free Library box in Skokie, IL, stocked with toilet paper. Image credit: steward Carrie Z.
Prior to becoming Little Free Library’s executive director, Greig Metzger spent several years as the executive director of a food shelf in the Minneapolis, MN, area that regularly served thousands of residents. The letter below shares his thoughts of providing food and personal care in Little Free Library boxes instead of books.
We have been getting a variety of inquiries from stewards about using their Little Free Library to provide food or personal care items to people who may need help. Here are our thoughts:
Bottom line, it is wonderful to support your neighbors. In fact, we imagine that is one of the reasons you are a steward—to help out your neighbors and your community. If you want to add items of need to your library that you think would be helpful, that is completely up to you. We think helping one’s fellow person in this challenging time is great.
That said, as a former food shelf executive director, I would be remiss in not suggesting ways you may be able to have even a larger impact, beyond your library. Are there ways you can use your Little Free Library not only as a distribution point, but as a collection point? Food shelves everywhere are facing increased demand. You can find the food shelf nearest you by doing a Google search for “food shelf near me.” Perhaps use your Little Free Library to host a food drive to help that local food shelf.
There are benefits to using a food shelf for distribution rather than a box in your yard. The most basic is that food shelves are set up to take food in and distribute it out. That is what they do, and they do it well. Families that need assistance know where food shelves are or can find them or be referred to them. Folks who suddenly find themselves in need may approach a variety of institutions for help (social services, local churches, school counselors, etc.). These professionals know the closest food shelf and will direct people to the best resources.
Food shelves also have programs that serve the less mobile, like senior citizens or the handicapped. Too often these populations are overlooked. Food shelves don’t overlook them. Lastly, food shelves will have increased demand so will need more food. More people contributing goes a long way to meeting the demand.
So without a doubt, feel free to use your Little Free Library as you think best. You are in your community and you understand its needs. Just know that the need is probably much greater than we might imagine and anything more you can do will undoubtedly be welcomed by your local food shelf.
M. Greig Metzger
Little Free Library Executive Director
March 19, 2020