Free Little Pantries: Riverside fights food insecurity with neighborhood project

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- It's a little project that looks to make a big impact when it comes to food insecurity in Riverside.

"This is a little free pantry program that was stood up as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for food security throughout the city of Riverside," said Yvette Sennewald, the city's neighborhood engagement manager.

The Free Little Pantry is similar to the Free Little Library program that offers books to the community, but instead of book the shelves will be stocked with dry good and nonperishable groceries.

"There are some members of the community who are not able to drive to a food distribution or food pantry," said Sennewald. "So, this provides a vital resource in those communities that don't drive so they can be in walking distance to food supplies."

The city partnered with Riverside Mutual Aid Network and Inland Empire Health Plan to launch the program.

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"The program started last year through the CARES Act and it has been so successful that now we are branching out to find other sources funding so that we can continue this program even after the CARES Act program," said Sennewald.

The goal is to have 26 Little Free Pantries installed in neighborhoods across Riverside. Those interested can apply to be a host or steward or both.

Fred Stover of Overflow Farms offered his corner for a pantry site.

"The Eastside had not had anyone sign up yet," said Stover. "I have a tenant that offered to take care of the box and put the food in every week. I will just drop off a box of food once a month and she can keep it stocked."

Neighbors are encouraged to help one another by taking what they need and leaving what they can. The pantries will be stocked with canned and dry goods while some sites will be able to provide fresh produce from the community farm.

"It is basically for a quick fix if you are hungry and cannot get out or you don't have any money you can come over here and get a meal or two," said Stover.

If you are interested in applying or learning more about the Free Little Pantry program, click here or email neighbor@riversideca.gov.
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