'Neighbors Helping Neighbors': MicroPantries Offers Free Grocery

Abhinanda Datta

BOLINGBROOK, IL — With the motto "Take what you Need, Leave what you Can", MicroPantries has been helping Bolingbrook residents with food and hygiene items during the coronavirus pandemic.

The first MicroPantries was opened on Larkin Avenue in Joliet and since then, it has about 71 pantries all across Illinois, with more on the way.

"We started this because people in that area were really struggling with homelessness," said Nicki Smith, pantry coordinator. "This is not meant for everyday use but to fill in the gaps when other resources aren’t available."

Smith said that soon people started asking about how to get a pantry in their neighborhoods. Those interested can contact MicroPantries but certain criteria need to be followed such as opening the pantry in a well-lit area and on a little off the beaten path so that people aren’t embarrassed taking items from it.

"This gives people an opportunity to donate food without putting in a lot of effort," Smith said.
"You can just go to the grocery store and pick up a few extra things. It is meant to help people with what they need."

Once the request for a pantry has been made, the first fully-stocked one is provided by the company, following which it is the people’s responsibility to keep replenishing it. The pantries usually carry non-perishable items and certain hygiene products such as diapers and toothbrushes.

Smith said the pantries have always been used by the residents, but right now about 60 pounds of food are going out of each pantry, feeding approximately 15 families a day.

MIcroPantries does not have a partnership with grocery stores and all the items come from the community members as their goal is for people to help each other.

"This is all about neighbors helping neighbors," Smith said. "That’s what we really want to instill. We only ask that people inform others when the pantries are running low and donate what they’d like."

She said what should motivate others to contribute is “it’s just such a great feeling to be able to do something for those in need.”

"The best part is that it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. If you can afford one can of soup, that’s fine. There are no expectations," she said. "A lot of the times we have people who have used these pantries themselves to get back on their feet. They are our biggest contributors because they know how much it means to them."

The three Bolingbrook locations are:

Fountaindale Public Library
300 W. Briarcliff Road

AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center
500 Remington Boulevard

Blessings Pantry
553 Redwood Road

For more information, visit the website.

This article originally appeared on the Bolingbrook Patch