Inside Wichita's 'Blessing Box,' a Micro Food Pantry

Maggie Ballard (Used With Permission)
Maggie Ballard (Used With Permission) / Maggie Ballard (Used With Permission)

In Wichita, Kansas, Maggie Ballard and her son Paxton have opened a tiny food pantry in their front yard. Modeled after the little free library concept, Maggie and Paxton call their little free pantry a "blessing box." It's a red wooden box with a glass door. They keep it stocked with food and sanitary supplies, and a sign encourages visitors to take whatever they need and contribute what they can. All transactions are anonymous.

Here's a short video tour of the box:

And here's Paxton with the box:

Maggie told NPR, "My son is 6 years old, so it gives him a little chore to kind of watch it and see what comes and goes and who comes and goes, and maybe learn a little lesson from it."

Maggie told mental_floss this week that community members have left cards, donations of supplies, and even cash (including a $20 bill between two cans) in response to the project. Here are some photos of the box and early donations:

And here's a sampling of the cards:

Maggie and Paxton's project is an extension of a small movement going on nationwide. From NPR's report earlier this week:

Similar "yard-based" food pantries have gone up across the country, in states like Oklahoma, Indiana, Kentucky, Florida and Minnesota. Much of it seems to trace back to Jessica McClard, who created what she calls the "little free pantry" in northwest Arkansas. "The products that are stocked are put directly inside the pantry and turnover is in about 30 to 45 minutes," McClard says. "The frequency of the turnover and the fact that other sites in town are also turning over that frequently, it suggests to me that the need is tremendous."

McClard maintains a Little Free Pantry website with guidance on how to make your own blessing box.

Finally, here are Maggie and Paxton:

(All photos courtesy of Maggie Ballard, used with permission.)