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Little Free Library becomes free food pantry

The Brookhaven community is known for taking care of its own, and a “Free Little Library” downtown has been converted into a mini food bank.

As COVID-19 outbreaks pop up around the state and the Mississippi State Department of Health is recommending everyone avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, organizations are coming up with ways to help out even during the rise of social distancing.

The Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce and the United Way of Lincoln County have come up with a new take on an old idea as a way to help people in the community who need aid.

“We still have the books, but we turned the library into a little food pantry,” Chamber Program Director Katie Nations said. “We’re going to be stocking it daily.”

The idea behind the Free Little Library is simple. Someone places a box out in the open for the community and starts filling it with books. The community can take a book, return it when they’re finished with it, and add books of their own.

As a food pantry, it works mostly the same. You can’t return food, but anyone can add food. And while it isn’t a huge pantry, it contains a variety of items from vegetable soup to peanut butter. It even has baby food, now, because of someone in the community who was in a giving mood.

“It looks like all of our peanut butter has been picked up and our crackers, but somebody left baby food and Easy Mac, which I wouldn’t have thought to buy,” Nations said. “It’s a need that the next person might have.”

Nations said that she wanted the program to preserve the dignity of people using it and removing items can be done anonymously.

“I like having a place where you don’t have to call or make an appointment,” she said.

The Chamber and United Way plan to continue to keep the pantry stocked until March 20. Food security is of particular concern when schools are out, and Brookhaven School District Superintendent Ray Carlock said that if schools are still out on March 23, the district intends to open up their summer feeding sites for the community.

Nations noted that anyone is welcome to bring food to the pantry. Even if it’s full, people can donate food to the chamber directly. Nations said that the chamber deliver the food bank or service organization if there is a surplus.

“If I get plenty, we’d like to stock the other (free little libraries) around town,” Nations said.