WESTFIELD – After opening back in June of 2019, Westfield’s Little Free Library transformed into a food pantry on April 19 to help people in need during the fight against COVID-19.
Katie Bailey, the woman who originally came up with the idea for the library, said she initially thought about doing a food pantry a couple of weeks ago but wasn’t sure how to go about doing it before she was approached by the director of the Westfield Food Pantry. “My friend Rebecca Hart had an idea to have somebody be in charge in staffing it. So someone is in charge of sanitizing the food, it’s being checked daily to be sure that it’s well stocked,” she said.
Bailey explained that the pantry is currently being stocked with non-perishable items such as canned tuna, canned vegetables, peanut butter, mac and cheese, and cereals.
The pantry is located just outside the Episcopal Church of Atonement since she and her husband are both members of the Church, and Bailey said it is an ideal location as both a library and a pantry.
She said, “I figured that would be a good place because we have the farmer’s market there weekly. It’s a good location, it’s downtown, people are walking by, it’s easy to get to, and you kinda can see it when you’re driving by.”
Bailey said that the library will continue to act as a food pantry for as long as the community needs it. “At this point as long as there’s a need will continue to do it. Everything is kind of up in the air right now so eventually we’ll turn it back into a library but at this point the food is the biggest priority need,” she said.
She added that it is difficult to track exactly how many people are using the pantry.
“I don’t know that there is a way to track exactly how many people are using it because it’s not staffed, it just kinda sits there so people can come up when they want to and take things. So I think we’ll be able to see how much food is moving but not how many people are using it,” she said.
While it is a bit more difficult for the Food Pantry to give out donations because of the current social distancing guidelines at its location, Bailey said the Little Free Food pantry offers a unique solution.
“One of the biggest issues now is that they have donations but the physical building the pantry is in is too small,” she said. “At the Little Free Food Pantry, the food is kept safe, but people can come when they need it, it’s not a certain time and there’s not a lot of crowding. So it kinda offers one more way they can get food into the hands of people.”
Anyone interested in donating to the Little Free Food Pantry can bring their donations to the Westfield Food Pantry.
Bailey said that she was happy to be able to help out in the community during a difficult time for everyone.
She said, “It feels hopeful. It feels like there’s so much we can’t do, but this is something that we can do. So I’m glad to be a small piece of that.”