Feed the need: Community center’s little food pantry offers free food, toiletries
With the help of Flint Street Fellowship, the Eureka Springs Community Center is feeding a need in the community.
Community center activities director Cat Luna recently announced that the community center is working with Flint Street to keep the Little Food Pantry stocked at all times. The Little Food Pantry is an unmanned pantry where citizens can donate food to help others or take food they need, Luna said. Syama Barden created the pantry for an Eagle Scout project in 2018, asking citizens to take what they need and leave what they can.
“We have young people come in and help out with projects that are meaningful to them and that are meaningful to the community, and this was one of those projects,” Luna said. “We’re continuing to support that project because we recognized immediately the value of it.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Carroll County last year, Luna said, demand for the pantry increased significantly. That’s when Flint Street stepped in, Luna said, to provide items such as nonperishable food and toiletries to fill the pantry. Luna thanked Flint Street representatives Pat Kasner and Ben Helmer for all their help on the project.
“Flint Street has been amazing in the projects we’ve worked together on,” Luna said. “We worked with them on the summer youth program feeding kids that come in and now we’re working with them on this food pantry. We are so fortunate to have them in our community.”
She wants the community to know the pantry is available, Luna said, and completely anonymous. Luna said anonymity is especially important when it comes to hunger.
“Privacy is a real concern these days. I think hunger is still one of the issues a lot of people have shame around,” Luna said. “People don’t realize how it affects a lot of people — people they don’t think could possibly have an issue with not having an adequate food supply.”
Hunger can take different forms, Luna said. She said the community center makes a point to provide a snack or a meal at all of its programs geared toward children, such as the summer youth program and the after-school program.
“Frequently, kids are coming to school or social activities and they’re hungry,” Luna said. “They don’t have enough food at home. It’s the same thing with adults. I know there are many adults in our community who are sacrificing to put enough food on the table for the rest of their family.”
Luna emphasized that the pantry is not a food bank. There are no forms to fill out and no requirements to use the pantry, Luna said.
“It’s there for people to give or take as they need. Flint Street is helping us with supplies when we are running low on donations and when we can’t provide necessary items,” Luna said. “Flint Street’s doing part of it, we’re doing part of it and the community is going to continue doing part of it as they have in the past.”
One person can’t be responsible for filling the entire pantry at all times, Luna said.
“But doing whatever we can to help is really such an important part of keeping the pantry going,” Luna said.
There are many items people can donate to the pantry, Luna said, including nonperishable food items such as dry beans, canned meat, canned vegetables, canned milk, evaporated milk, dried milk and pasta. Luna said the pantry is also stocked with toiletries such as toilet paper and toothbrushes.
“Be sensible about what you’re giving to the food pantry, because people need to be able to get into those items,” Luna said. “It’s about finding those items that are more long-lasting like rice and beans.”
Luna said the pantry is sometimes stocked with pet food, another major need in the community. In the past, Luna said, she has received heartfelt notes in the pantry.
“They’ve sometimes expressed that they’ve had a lot of issues going on,” Luna said. “Having the ability to stop by the pantry in the middle of the night when the store is closed is so important. It doesn’t have to be that you’re starving. It could be that you couldn’t get to the store. Maybe you take a can this week and you bring back two cans next week.”
Luna thanked everyone who has donated to the pantry and said the community center is dedicated to meeting all the needs of the community. Everyone should know about the food pantry, Luna said.
“Our community is representative of the diversity in hunger issues you see across the world,” Luna said. “I think we often forget that there is somebody right now in our community that is hiding the fact that they have this need, or they’re embarrassed about the fact that they have this need.”
Luna continued, “The resource is there for when you need it and for when you can give. We are always aware of the community’s needs and we’re striving to provide them as best we can.”
The pantry is located at the entrance of the community center at the far end of the small front parking area. For more information on the community center, visit www.ESCommunity.org.