Carrboro High School Seniors Create "My Little Pantry"
In 2019, Dhara Buebel and other students traveled with Carrboro High School’s (CHS) social studies teacher, Matt Cone, to meet with philanthropist, Howard Buffett. Now a senior, Buebel said the conversation with Buffett impacted her in many ways, especially learning about the prevalence of food insecurity in the U.S. “It was a part of the discussion that really stuck with me,” she said. “So, when I had some extra time in the spring, I was looking mainly for service opportunities related to food insecurity.”
“I came across the little free pantry website, which is a movement in 96 countries, and I thought this would be a great way to help alleviate food insecurity in Chapel Hill,” Buebel said. “This was most interesting to me, because I realized that many people were losing their jobs and sources of income, so food insecurity would become more prevalent.”
With a vision taking shape, Buebel reached out to three CHS friends to ask if they’d be interested in working with her to set up a local pantry. “The website has blueprints and plans for how to set up a pantry, so we stuck with our original plan,” Buebel said. “I knew we’d want it on public property, so we quickly got started trying to contact Town Council to get permission.” She said the only significant change they made from the original design was adding healthcare essentials, like masks, shampoo and hand sanitizer.
The four classmates constructed the pantry, along with help from their siblings who are engineering majors in college. Then, with the help of a neighbor and family friend, Gregg Melville, they were able to put the pantry up in early August. They check and stock it weekly.
“For now, the pantry is being stocked with donations the community has generously given us,” Buebel said. “Our hope is that in the future, the pantry will run on the idea of ‘take what you need, leave what you can.’ The pantry is located in the parking lot of Homestead Aquatic Center in Chapel Hill.
In September, the students worked with administrators at CHS to set up a donation drive at the school. “It was really successful,” Buebel said. “Both parents and staff had access to bins for donations, and we picked them up at the end of the week.”
Ashley Meggs is another My Little Pantry creator. “Seeing the impact our pantry has had on the community has been great. A few times when going to restock the pantry, I have seen families taking items from the pantry, and seeing kids, especially, taking donations has been such a rewarding experience. When we first started this project I was not sure how effective the pantry would be, but seeing it almost empty each week is an amazing feeling as we are truly providing for those in need.”
The two other CHS students involved in the service project are Chloe Carroll and Sarah Wesley. The students have started a club at CHS to publicize the pantry, as well as build support for future endeavors. They hope to get another pantry up in Carrboro by the end of the school year. “We’ve had a couple of donation drives in the community, most notably in Southern Village and CHS,” said Buebel. “We will also be participating in the Town of Chapel Hill Greenway, Parks, and Recreation committee meeting in early November to publicize the pantry. Otherwise, it’s word of mouth.”
Community members will have the opportunity to contribute items to My Little Pantry the week of October 26-30 at CHS. Bins will be set up outside the school entrance for parents, students and others to donate food and wellness items. Additional bins will be set up inside the school, so faculty can contribute, as well.
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