DeKalb County, GA — Chamblee High School senior Sirianna Blanck hopes to make a difference in the community with her mini pantries. She built and installed pantries in Clarkston and Tucker throughout the summer. She also restored an old Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper box and placed it at Oglethorpe University.
Blanck has been a Girl Scout since about first grade, when she started as a Brownie. Now, Blanck is completing her Girl Scout Gold Award. As she began thinking about her project, she was inspired by the free little libraries she had seen and her mom had her about the little pantries.
“I was like ‘oh that’s amazing’ because especially after the last couple of years of the pandemic and stuff, I feel like I’ve become a lot more aware of stuff like that where there’s not exactly policy going on right here, right now,” Blanck said. “So we need to take some direct action in something as little as something like the little libraries or the little pantries to try to do some good.”
Blanck, who volunteers at the Atlanta Food Bank, wanted to fill a need as the Food Bank was closed during the pandemic. She wanted to think of something that didn’t need people to run it and something that would be COVID-safe.
“My goal is just to make a difference to one person,” Blanck said. “I’d go and I’d stock them. Then the next day to come and see what had been taken and just know that someone got to eat that was the ultimate goal. To see the donations used, that was the goal.”
The mini pantry is like a food pantry without overhead. It doesn’t need staff or have lines. It’s a box that can hold all the food someone needs and has 24-hour access, Blanck said. The concept is similar to that of free little libraries. People can take the food and supplies they need, and leave what they can. Anyone can take advantage of the resources, she added.
The pantries are filled with non-perishable foods and mostly canned goods. They also had cereal, boxes of pasta, macaroni and cheese.
“Also a really easy thing was masks, disposable masks, and tampons and pads and stuff because it’s not food, but it’s still filling a gap where there’s a lot of wage discrepancies there. Especially [with] feminine hygiene stuff,” Blanck said.
Blanck said it was a challenge to find places to install her pantries. She also had to have sustainability letters to show that people would keep donating to the pantries to sustain them. She started with community centers and expanded to other organizations. One pantry is at the Jolly Avenue Community Garden in Clarkston and another is at the Tucker Recreation Center. The third pantry is at the student center at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta.
“I wanted it to be places where there’ll be a big mixture, where there’s going to be people who need it and people who can donate,” Blanck said. “So community centers and stuff like that where you’re going to have people who have the extra food or income to be able to donate to it, but they’re still going to be there. But also people who need the food, so that you got a good mix.”
The third pantry is at the student center at Oglethorpe University in Brookhaven. Blanck was connected to the university through a neighbor.
“You always hear that college students are broke, like they just eat ramen kind of stuff. That’s true in a depressing way in like they don’t have the food security aspect,” Blanck said. “It was cool to be able to put it at Oglethorpe and address that.”
Blanck is primarily maintaining and stocking the pantries currently. Oglethorpe University has volunteer groups that will handle the pantry. A nutrition volunteer group from Emory University will eventually do a donation drive for the Clarkston pantry. A club at Chamblee High School will also do a donation drive for the Tucker pantry.
She has noticed that the pantries are being used, particularly in Clarkston as the community garden is in an area that is mostly refugee families.
“It definitely would be like within a day all of the stuff would be taken, which is sad, but I would be glad that I could put it there,” Blanck said. “The community garden there is super awesome too because it provides food to the community, so I feel like it’s a really good center there.”
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