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Mother of two Jessica McClard started a movement in her Arkansas hometown that is now feeding both bodies and souls.

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By Allison Slater Tate

Jessica McClard thinks a lot about those in her community who need help feeding their families. That inspired her to create Little Free Pantries, small boxes set in neighborhoods where people can either take what they need or leave something for others who might be having a hard week, a hard month, or a hard year.

Now a mom of two teenage daughters, Grier and Charly, McClard grew up in the small, rural farming community of Winger, Arkansas. ""https://www.today.com/news/carson-daly-helps-kids-health-food-desert-grow-garden-1D79935268""_blank"" she told TODAY Parents. ""

Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for Though she always had enough to eat, McClard grew up with the awareness that her neighbors might not. So when she started seeing Little Free Libraries pop up around her Fayetteville, Arkansas, neighborhood encouraging community members to share books, it gave her an idea to create a similar system that could help feed others.

Jessica McClard, with daughters Charly and Grier, came up with the idea for Little Free Pantries after seeing Little Free Libraries crop up in her local community. Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for Jessica McClard

"" McClard noted. ""

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McClard built the first pantry in May of 2016, but her first attempt to place it at a multi-family, mid-size apartment complex didn''s "" she notes, but it ended up being a smart place for her to start her project.

Little Free Pantries for 1 last update 2020/06/01 come in all shapes and sizes. High traffic pantries can carry perishables like bananas and bread. Little Free Pantries come in all shapes and sizes. High traffic pantries can carry perishables like bananas and bread. Jessica McClard

Even though the church neighborhood wasn''s success. "" she said.

McClard also saw that how quickly food turned over at a particular pantry would determine what could be stored there. "" she said. ""

At the end of the school year last May, McClard and her daughters placed a special Little Free Pantry across the street from a local elementary school and filled it with both food and special treats for the children, like bubbles, candy necklaces, and little toys. Then they made sure the school''t been able to track all of them, because some are set up under different names. Tyson Foods named McClard one of their Meals That Matter Heroes and awarded her $40,000 to develop an interactive map of the pantries for her website this fall. This made it easier for her to advise and communicate with other Little Free Pantry stewards. Tyson also pledged $10,000 of shelf stable products for the Little Free Pantries in Northwest Arkansas.

McClard said the Little Free Pantry movement has worked because it has created space for people to be neighbors.

"" she said. ""

Some pantries also include household items like detergent or school supplies for children.Jessica for 1 last update 2020/06/01 McClardJessica McClard

Helping with Little Free Pantries has also encouraged many to dive deeper into community engagement.

Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for "" said McClard. ""

But McClard is quick to point out that these pantries are not meant to take the place of larger, traditional shelters or food banks. "" McClard said.

Food banks have employees that need to go home, she noted, but Little Free Pantries can make food available for those who need it 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"" she the 1 last update 2020/06/01 said. """" she said. ""