Thinking Outside the Pantry and Meeting the Needs of the Community


Junior Nora Paladino proudly stands before her Little Free Food Pantry, ready to bring the community together and meet the needs of its members.

Diana Vink, Editorial Board

Community. You’ll hear a lot of people throwing the word around right now, but what are you meant to do with it? The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly turned everything that we know on its head. In a time when the odds seem dead set upon keeping us apart, how do we unify?
It seems oxymoronic to try and redefine “community” with its antithesis: separation. The pandemic has created a whole new set of challenges for us that includes financial instability, new medical risks, and an overwhelming sense of fear and uncertainty towards the future. These problems are only exacerbated by the fact that we don’t really know how to fix them. How can we help others without putting them in danger? Without putting ourselves in danger? How can we tackle a series of problems that we can’t touch?
Someone that was able to address some of the questions you may have been asking yourself is one of our own, Nora Paladino, a junior here at BHS who runs the Little Free Pantry.
“The Little Free Pantry of Brewster is open 24/7, and is completely anonymous and contactless,” she told me. “That means it’s pretty safe in and of itself.”
Designed as an outdoor, contactless pantry full of nonperishables and toiletries, the Little Free Pantry is self-sustained and run through donations and volunteers. A passion project for Nora, she researched how other similar thriving systems are set up and utilized in other communities, scouted out the perfect location, approached the town about starting it, and even found and refinished the furniture that houses it. Now up and running, items are free to take at any time for anyone who needs them.
“It’s completely anonymous, so I don’t really know who goes or how many people go. I just judge by what food is missing,” Nora commented.
In this way, the Little Free Pantry has become a safe space for people who needed help to accept it without fear of judgment or criticism. There are volunteers for nearly every day, who are responsible for making sure that the pantry is filled for other members of the community.

A fully stocked food pantry, located at 10 Front Street in Brewster, is ready to lend a helping hand to the community.

Nora’s food pantry, located outside at 10 Park Street, has been running since March. Taking sign-ups online, Nora has effectively created a way for her food pantry to keep running even despite the current circumstances. To a certain extent, as well, those circumstances shaped the way the Little Free Pantry was devised.
“I was originally supposed to have a grand opening in April, but when COVID hit, I knew more people would get use out of it,” she mentioned.
Nora’s project is more than inspirational. The fact that Nora was planning to run this pantry before the pandemic is already incredibly altruistic. Nora recognized a problem within our community and found a safe and effective way to address it. She identified that beyond our normal need there would be a significantly higher need due to the pandemic. The Little Free Pantry has seen plenty of use, just serving as evidence that people need the service it provides. Nora saw an existing need, and learned to address it through a new lens.
Take a glance at the pantry’s Facebook or Instagram page, and you’ll see a community coming together, especially given the incredibly easy nature of stocking the pantry. On these pages you’ll see pictures of current and past students, the Career Skills classes, Ms. New York Pre-Teen, Ms. Connecticut Earth, and a host of Brewster families. So let’s talk about it again: community. Together, just separately. What does it mean?
Community is turning an eye to the needs of those around you and helping to meet them. Community in a pandemic isn’t really all that different: it’s recognizing how the needs of those around you may have changed, and finding new ways to address them safely. If you don’t know where to start, a small donation to the Little Free Pantry could send you down a great path.

To learn more about the Little Free Pantry and sign up for a donation slot, visit @littlefreepantrybrewster on Instagram and Facebook to see a list of suggested donations.