Something unexpected appeared recently in Downtown Woodstock along Wall Street. A whimsical Little Free Pantry has been installed on the stone patio behind the Woodstock Visitors Center.
Following the renovation of the visitors center this spring, staff needed to find a new home for the 1930s refrigerator that belonged to the Dean family and has been used for years to store antique ledgers in Dean’s Store. Marketing Manager Stacy Brown discovered The Little Free Pantry project, a grassroots crowdsourced solution that applies the Little Free Library® concept to activate community engagement in regard to food insecurity. According to the project’s website, “Whether a need for food or a need to give, the Little Free Pantry facilitates neighbors helping neighbors, building community.”
Artist Deidra Smith of Blue Frog Imports helped the Woodstock Visitors Center create a Little Free Library® from a discarded newspaper box on Main Street in 2017, so Brown approached her about the Little Free Pantry idea. Smith was inspired by the concept and enlisted the help of metal artist Darrell Reddy to transform the refrigerator into a functional piece of public art. Reddy has worked with Smith before on the iconic Live Love Woodstock guitar sculpture housed at the Elm Street Event Green.
The two artists reimagined the antique refrigerator in a delightful way. Reddy added a spinning roof vent atop the motor of the appliance reminiscent of a chef’s toque. Spatulas and spoons were used to create a face on the front of the motor. Finally, arms were added to each side of the old refrigerator – one empty to receive and the other holding symbolic goods to share.
Smith then added her signature folk art style to the piece by painting words and designs in bright colors. She painted the instructions, “Take what you need – Leave what you can” on the large refrigerator door.
It’s the hope that community groups, nearby residents, and scout troops will take a part in stocking the pantry for neighbors in need. “With school getting out in coming weeks, snacks and activities for kids would be a very helpful thing to leave in Woodstock’s Little Free Pantry,“ Brown suggests.
Items needed for summer break include dry cereal and granola bars, packaged dried fruits and nuts, bottled water, snack crackers, sunscreen and bug spray, first aid supplies, bubbles and sidewalk chalk, and indoor art supplies.
The Woodstock Visitors Center asks people to take photos to share on social media when they leave donations and use the hashtag #littlefreepantry with the location @DowntownWoodstock to help spread the word about the initiative.