During the month of October, the students and staff from the Ross Medical Education Center campus in Port Huron, Michigan designated a local Little Red Pantry to keep stocked with food and necessities throughout the entire month. The Little Red Pantry located behind a beloved local restaurant, Kate’s Downtown, in the city of Port Huron was filled with much needed food and compassion.
The Little Red Pantry Project is run by Woman’s Life, Chapter 803, in St. Clair County, which established the first local pantry in January of 2017. The Pantries are large red boxes that are either freestanding or affixed to a pole, post, or building. The boxes are designed to be anonymous, self-serve locations for people to take what they need or to leave items to help others. The pantries are stocked with donations of non-perishable items of all kinds such as cereal, pasta, fruit snacks, bottled water, crackers and granola bars. Canned foods are also accepted, such as soup, stews, fruit, and vegetables. And although all food is appreciated, food that is ready to eat without needing further preparation seems to be in the biggest demand.
Restaurant owner Kate Voss of Kate’s Downtown in Port Huron has a Little Red Pantry Box in a discrete location behind her restaurant and encourages people to use it both to donate and to take whatever is needed. Kate says, “I’m always amazed by the giving community we live in. If you need help you get it!” This particular location was established in March of 2018 and has made a steady impact on those in the downtown area. One particular gentleman who prefers to remain anonymous, stated that, “I can’t always walk all the way to the soup kitchen but I can make it to that red box. It has helped me out more than once.”
As the need for the boxes grows, so do the community offerings, which have called for some structural changes of the Little Red Pantries. When the project began the boxes were a bit smaller than they are now. The newer boxes offer additional space at the bottom of the box for larger items such as blankets, pet food and occasional donations of coats or, in one instance, a sleeping bag. Cheryl VanLaan, a student in the Medical Assistant program, who donated two brand new blankets to the cause, shared, “I have great compassion for those in need. I want to be of any help that I can. Even one person can make a difference”.
There are many similar pantry projects across the country with names like Blessing Boxes, Little Free Pantry, Red Food Bank, and Mini Food Box but they all work on the same principle of anonymity and community support and donation. For further information on this project or to find out how to get involved you can contact the group on Facebook at facebook.com/littleredpantries.