Community free pantry project starting to spread across Calgary

In the northeast Calgary community of Renfrew, stands the city’s first, and possibly Canada’s first, Little Free Pantry, which offers the less fortunate food and other necessities donated by the residents of the area.

But the pantry no longer stands alone.

A second one recently opened in Bowness, and the people behind the idea hope to see other communities take up the idea as well.

Marie Ferraro, a receptionist at Ascending Koi Tattoo and Apparel, came across the idea while looking at social media.

Ferraro found a video of a woman from Arkansas (Ark.), who was promoting the idea to all communities.

Jessica McClard, 41, of Fayetteville, Ark., got the idea from the little free library boxes which have proliferated across the continent.

The pantries, sometimes called Blessing Boxes, started to appear last summer, in states such as, Maine and Texas.

“It’s the most simple way to give back,” said Ferraro.

“It gives a vibe of togetherness.”

Ferraro gathered six close friends and came up with a plan to make the pantry project possible in Calgary.

Jess Lundy, a local master builder, created the blueprints for the project.

Lundy and Ferraro then agreed to make the blueprints available to any community that wants to build a pantry.

“It only costs $70 to build,” said Ferraro.

“which makes its possible for many communities to join in.”

“With a little help, it’s super easy.”

With cost and production worked out, all that was left for the project to take flight was to find a private property to build it on.

Suzanne Delaine, the owner of Ascending Koi Tattoo and Apparel, agreed to take part by providing a piece of her business’s property for the location of the Little Free Pantry.

Ascending Koi, which is housed in a converted house that has been painted black and white, is now accepting donations of food, health products, hygiene products, and other items to add into the pantry.

“It’s always being replenished,” said Ferraro.

“People even leave bus tickets and cigarette packs, and it just keeps getting filled.”

Although the Little Free Pantry started in northeast Calgary, it has now reached other communities across the city.

A second pantry has been launched in Bowness, at a grocery store called The Bownesian Grocer, on Bowness Road.

“I’ve had so many donations here that I had to drop them off in Bowness,” said Ferraro.

“People use the one in Bowness more regularly, so they always have more room.”

Ferraro explained that other communities are now contacting their Facebook page daily with questions on how to get the Little Free Pantry in their community.

“My hope is that it will grow across the city, and everyone will start giving a little,” said Ferraro.

Give a Little, Take a Little: Marie Ferraro poses beside a public food pantry located on the property of Ascending Koi Tattoo and Apparel in Calgary on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016. Ferraro created the idea of a public food pantry in order to push the community into donating items to the less fortunate. (Photo by Emilie Tatlock/The Press)
Blue Print: Little Food Pantry’s blue print offered by Jess Lundy and Marie Ferraro, who encourage others to use the same plan to offer the service in other locations. (Photo by Emilie Tatlock/The Press)
About Emilie Tatlock 4 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Emilie Tatlock is working as a reporter for The Press during the 2016-17 academic year.