JASPER, Tenn. — The Little Free Pantry is an idea that sprang from the Little Free Library concept to help address food insecurity through crowdsourced donations.
Now, one of those pantries may be coming to Jasper soon.
At the December meeting of the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen, local volunteer Emma Collins presented the idea to city leaders.
"Basically, it's a box," she said. "It's open 24/7, and inside will be non-perishable food items and household items. These items are for anyone who needs them. There's no discrimination for who uses the box."
The pantry would be filled solely through donations from the community.
"It's just that little extra help when you need it, when you're waiting for your next meal, or waiting for the food bank," Collins said. "It's a give-and-take to bring everybody closer together."
City Attorney Mark Raines said if the pantry is placed on city property, Jasper's insurance provider would have to approve so any possible liability issues would be covered.
"If someone were to get injured or get some spoiled food or something like that, of course, they would probably bring some kind of action against [the town]," he said. "So, we just need to make sure that the [Tennessee Risk Management] pool is going to cover [us] if we got some sort of claim filed against the city."
Mayor Paul Evans said he would contact the insurance officials as soon as possible about the issue.
The board voted unanimously to approve the construction of the Little Free Pantry contingent on the insurance coverage.
Collins said if the pantry comes to fruition, other items such as mittens and scarfs could be placed in the box during seasonal times or books and pencils before school starts each year.
Some items would not be allowed for obvious reasons, such as razors, household cleaners,or previously used products.
"We don't know exactly what size we'll build the box, but definitely we want to leave as much space as possible for the food items and household items like toilet paper or toothpaste," Collins said.
She said location is key, because the box needs to be convenient for those who want to take from it as well as those who want to give to it.
The Little Free Pantry could be placed somewhere in the vicinity of Jasper Park, but officials said they would work out the location details after insurance coverage is confirmed.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.