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Free Little Food Pantry opens at First United Church of Christ

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ First United Church of Christ, located at 202 S. 4th Ave in Marshalltown, just built and opened a Free Little Food Pantry, whereby folks in need can avail themselves of free food donated to the pantry. The church encourages people to leave donations directly in the pantry.

Where there is a need, fill it. This is the mindset of the folks at First United Church of Christ, located at 202 S. 4th Ave in Marshalltown, who recently opened their own Free Little Food Pantry, an outdoor structure on the church grounds, filled with food items anyone in need may take. The pantry was the brainchild of congregant April Long.

“Those of us that are blessed are so busy in our lives, we don’t always see the need, but the need is there, and the church has stepped up,” Long said.

The pantry is styled after the similar-looking Little Free Libraries — the popular stand-alone structures people place at businesses and residences to promote literacy by encouraging the public to “take a book, leave a book.”

“April took her idea to the church’s board and it responded quickly,” said Pastor Kim Wilson. “Jacob Kvinlaug built the pantry out of scrap lumber for our use.”

From the very first day the pantry was installed, congregants have kept busy trying to keep it stocked.

Any non-perishable food item may be added to the pantry; donors need not contact nor ask the church’s permission to donate. Long said the type of items that are especially useful to those in need include those that require minimal preparation and packaged in single serve containers.

“When I bring food to the pantry, I try to bring food that is quick and easy to make, has a nutritional value — no junk food — in boxes, such as instant oatmeal, that could be opened up and allow for several single serve meals,” Long said.

She recommends edibles such as oatmeal, instant noodles, boxed raisins, peanut butter and cracker snacks, soup and granola bars, keeping in mind the needs of not only families, but those that are single, many of which are homeless.

“My desire would be to see every church in the area put out these free pantries. It’s a simple thing to do,” Long said.

Wilson and Long said the church is in the planning stages of offering free Saturday night soup suppers to try to supplement the services of local social welfare agencies.

“The pantry is our first step towards offering Saturday night meals,” Wilson said. “There’s been a strong impulse [from church members] to offer free food.”

The pantry will be left up year-round. To learn more about the Free Little Food Pantry, contact the church at 641-753-8538. Wilson may be reached directly at 641-521-5203.