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Program Reuses Old Newspaper Boxes as Mini Food Pantries

April 16, 2019
newspaper box holding various items
Newspaper boxes refurbished as food pantries are in four Gillette locations, with another to be added in May. This one is at Lakeview Park. (UW Extension Photo)

Refurbished newspaper delivery boxes in Gillette now distribute clothes, food and toiletries to help those in need of extra support.

Called “little free pantries,” four are distributed around town, with a fifth planned for the end of May. Many such pantries are popping up across the nation to provide resources to families in need, according to

Beth Chapell, Cent$ible Nutrition Program (CNP) coordinator with University of Wyoming Extension in Campbell County, says she knew that, when Gillette Saturday Farmers Market managers Megan McManamen and Erin Galloway approached her about creating the pantries, this would be a great project for CNP.

Chapell and her co-workers began brainstorming how to implement the project, and the program started to take shape last summer with the help of many community members.

The Gillette News Record donated five used newspaper boxes to be refurbished into pantries. New Visions Auto Detailing in Gillette removed the rust and painted the boxes with automobile paint to help them withstand the Wyoming weather. Students 4 Change decorated two of the pantries.

Pantries are in front of the Salvation Army, the Council Food Bank, Lakeside Park and Sunflower Park, just down the street from Sunflower Elementary School. Another will be placed in Bivens Park at the end of May.

These pantries provide a resource for community members to either donate or take items they may need and provide an alternative for individuals instead of going to a food bank.

“I think there are a number of reasons why people won’t go to a food bank,” Chapell says. “One is the hours of operation. For ours, it’s 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., so if you’re (under)employed, you may not make it there during open hours, and they require an application. Two, some people don’t want to ask for a handout. They may feel embarrassed.”

The idea of the Little Free Pantry organization is to “take what you need and leave what you can.”

Chapell and CNP volunteers check the pantries for safety and to restock.

“The community has been really supportive,” Chapell says.

CNP, with help of Gillette Saturday Farmers Market, has held three food drives since the start of the project last summer, and community members have dropped off items at the UW Extension office to be added to the boxes.

The pantry items have ranged from toiletries, women’s hygiene products, diapers, pet food and clothes to nonperishable food items.

Chapell says one woman dropped off a box full of hotel toiletry items, and another dropped off new socks and T-shirts.

“Free little pantries offer a judgment-free zone,” Chapell says. “We don’t monitor who uses them or how often. And if you’re just driving by, you won’t know if someone is taking or dropping off items.”

The Gillette Little Free Pantry Facebook page has up-to-date information on the project and information about donation drives.

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