Little Free Pantries could be coming to Grand Ledge

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A new initiative, called Little Free Pantries, which aims to help food insecure people, will be discussed by the Grand Ledge Planning Commission Thursday, Oct. 5 .

Grand Ledge resident Kimberlee Klatt said the pantries are small wooden boxes where nonperishable food is left for people to take what they need, whenever they need it.

The first step in bringing Little Free Pantries to Grand Ledge is discussing possible zoning ordinance changes at the 7 p.m. meeting.

“We thought this would be great,” Grand Ledge resident Kimberlee Klatt said. “So that’s why we started this whole thing.”

Klatt is leading the push to convince the city that the food pantries are a good idea.

The pantries are small wooden boxes where nonperishable food is left for people to take what they need, whenever they need it, Klatt said.

The Grand Ledge Seventh Day Adventist Community Service Center operates the only food pantry in the city.

It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays, according to its website.

“There’s no nighttime help, there’s no weekends, there’s no holidays,” Klatt said.

Mayor Kalmin Smith said he did not see a great benefit from Little Free Pantries.

“I don’t think it’d be much of a benefit,” Smith said. “I think it’s wonderful these people want to do something, but we have a great food pantry here.”

Click below to hear the audio.

There are few main concerns with the pantries, Smith said.

Smith said food allergies and people tampering with the products could harm people who take the food, which is something he doesn’t want.

“I see it’s kind of risky to the homeowner and to the potential users,” Smith said.

Click below to hear the audio.

Klatt said she would increase homeowner liability, and under the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act of 1996, she has no liability for allergic reactions or other food related issues.

However, there is no guarantee Little Free Pantries are covered by the act, according to an article published by CityLab through The Atlantic.

But, a legal guide published by the University of Arkansas School of Law claims there have been no lawsuits relating to food-donation liability.

Helping food insecure people is a great idea, Smith said, even if he doesn’t agree with the way people want to help.

“I don’t really see that it’s some critical need that has to be met,” Smith said. “Having said that, if anybody wants to do some charitable thing that’s great.”

Click below to hear the audio.

The next step is a change to a zoning ordinance, according to Zoning Administrator Susan Stachowiak.

“We would just need to amend that ordinance to allow for them,” Stachowiak said. “Ultimately it would be the city council that decides whether to approve it.”

If it is approved by the city council, those who want to build a pantry must submit a sketch of the pantry and its location to prove it complies with the ordinance, and pay the $25 building permit fee.

Klatt said she hopes the council approves the pantries, to show the community that they care.

“Ultimately, if people are more afraid of liability or they don’t feel the need that we need more food services in Grand Ledge, you can’t make them care,” Klatt said.

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