Community effort brings ‘Little Free Pantry’ to Saxtons River

SAXTONS RIVER — Earlier this year, Berta Martin happened upon a Little Free Pantry in Burlington.

Part of a nationwide movement, Little Free Pantries ( are sidewalk food shelves that are open around the clock. Their motto and operating principle is: “Take what you need, or leave what you can.”

According to a news release, Martin said she loved how the pantries were accessible to all and served as a community resource during challenging pandemic times. She put out the word to see if there was support for setting up a Little Free Pantry in the village.

At the time, with no food shelf or community meals, the response was strong, so Martin raised funds to pay for materials to build a little pantry.

It was modeled after similar projects in the Burlington area. Specifications for building such a project were available online, as was advice from other communities and groups that had started one.

Martin's husband, Denny McArdle, volunteered to build the pantry using a mixture of new materials and old materials creatively reused, or “upcycled.”

The Saxtons River Elementary Student Council and its leader, teacher Jaimie Douglass, were approached to have students paint and decorate the pantry. The school's art teacher, Jay Palmisano, painted the signs.

A new community organization in town, 24 Main St. Ltd., took on the project and fully supported having the pantry out front of the former Christ's Church building as a component of their nonprofit's mission to promote community connection, outreach, and support.

On Labor Day weekend, the structure was installed. It is now in use.

Everyone can participate by dropping off non-perishable food and personal care items for the Little Free Pantry.

Suggested items that can tolerate cold outdoor temperatures include boxed grains and pasta, peanut butter, toothbrushes, granola bars, tuna and baby food pouches, soap, crackers, soup, tortillas, string cheese, pepperoni and summer sausage, cereal, and oatmeal.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates