Millvale to benefit from Little Free Pantry
Girl Scout Troop 52624 is addressing food insecurity in Millvale through two food pantries — each solely consisting of a cabinet containing three food-filled shelves.
The pantries located at the Gardens of Millvale and Tupelo Honey Teas are part of the Little Free Pantry movement, in which people are encouraged “take what you need, leave what you can,” as the cabinets’ inscription states.
The Gardens of Millvale pantry carries fresh produce.
“The idea is that anybody that has extra produce that they have grown in their garden, they can share with their neighbors,” said troop co-leader Lindsay Cochran.
The troop of fourth- and fifth-graders purchased the cabinets at Homewood’s Construction Junction and modified them to fit their needs. The project was part of their Girl Scouts Bronze Award, requiring 20 hours of work.
“We had sketched out ideas, and we did our best to try to morph them together.” Lyssie Arrigo said of construction completed at Millvale’s Holy Spirit Parish.
If girls missed meetings, they could make up hours by completing “homework.” For example, Lyssie and her father made up additional hours by constructing mesh doors for the produce cabinet. Sophie Trgovic constructed the roof with her family. The design permits air flow into the cabinet, providing a longer shelf life for fruits and vegetables.
Both pantries have indigo exteriors with melon interiors. The students painted flowers using their handprints on both, as well.
Maddie Walker’s Winnie the Pooh design adorns the Tupelo pantry, along with a quote from the character that she found online, stating: “What could be more important than a little something to eat?”
“We put the Pooh — the Winnie the Pooh — on the one that’s at Tupelo Honey Teas because you’ve gotta have honey with Pooh and honey with your tea, so it all kind of worked together,” said Savanah Gray.
“In Millvale gardens, we did these little painted rocks that we put around,” said Emma Cochran.
Denise Rudar, Gardens of Millvale chairwoman, said that she wanted to partner with the scouts because the gardens “exists to increase accessibility to fresh produce in Millvale.” The gardens will donate its own produce to the pantry.
The Tupelo pantry contains larger shelves to accommodate non-perishable and hygiene items. North Hills Community Outreach is helping to supply items.
Danielle Spinola, Tupelo Honey Teas owner, said that people can stock items directly in the cabinets. If the shelves are full, they may leave items with staff at Tupelo Honey Teas or the adjacent Millvale Community Library. Spinola said that employees and the Millvale Borough Police are monitoring the cabinets to ensure that only appropriate items are donated.
Spinola also has accepted monetary donations for pantry supplies.
“It takes a lot of people to keep helping to fill that thing,” she said.
Spinola has taken ownership of the project because she had approached Susan McClellan, the library’s executive director, about building a food pantry one day prior to the Girl Scouts contacting them regarding their idea. Spinola said that she wanted “to combat hunger, and I know that people in the area may not be able to come in and afford to eat here. And just because we’re connected to the library and everything with the library is free.”
“I think the project is going great. I do see the pantry being used and know that is it a great asset to the community,” McClellan said.
Spinola agreed. “It’s wonderful. There’s people who are using it quite often, which is good.”
“We have a very dedicated troop that comes to everything … they are all friends and they work really hard and really well together,” said troop co-leader Jessica Trgovic.
Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.