“Take what you need, bring what you can. Above all, be blessed!”
That’s the motto for a Girl Scout troop’s project that fights food insecurity in Hyattsville, Maryland.
Girl Scout Troop 6899 opened a little free pantry, dubbed a "blessing box," near St. Jerome Catholic Church and Hyattsville Elementary School on Sunday.
Inspired by small free libraries in the community, they wanted to create a project that would have a lasting impact on kids who don't have enough to eat at home, troop leader Adina McGee said.
“As soon as someone mentions children without food, it moved to the top of the list,” she said.
Creating the little pantry was an eye-opening experience for McGee's daughter, Liliana McGee, who is a Girl Scout troop president. With many members of the troop having to deal with food insecurity, this seemed like a good way to give back, she said.
"I didn't realize food access was really a problem in our community. It opened my eyes to a lot of the struggles I don't face day-to-day but other people struggle with," Liliana McGee said.
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The troop came up with the idea around Christmastime last year when members gave donated boxes of Girl Scout cookies to a food pantry.
With food pantries having limited hours, creating a blessing box democratizes the process, Adina McGee said. She added that the box is anonymous and takes away the stigma that comes with visiting regular food pantries.
The troop received a grant of $250 worth of materials from Community Forklift, a nonprofit that provides secondhand building supplies. The girls found a used cabinet and put their woodworking badges to work, revamping it with help from their supervisors.
In April, the scouts partnered with Chipotle and raised more than $400 in a fundraiser that covered the costs for cement and goods to keep the pantry stocked for the first few months.
People are encouraged to contribute at their discretion. Members and leaders plan to monitor the blessing box regularly in case it needs to be restocked or cleaned.
Don't expect to find Girl Scout cookies though; putting them in the blessing box could cause them to melt, Adina McGee said. Instead, the pantry accepts other non-perishable items like canned vegetables, beans, pasta and more, as well as personal care items and paper goods.
"It's fitting that this Girl Scout troop that's known for their cookies gave back to the community in this way," Liliana McGee said. "This was definitely a more meaningful way to give back."
By the end of August, the troop also hopes to fill the pantry with school supplies.