You’ve seen those "take a penny, leave a penny" trays at convenience stores. It’s a simple view of the honor code that residents adhere to.
Take an item, or leave an item.
According to National Public Radio, these pantry boxes are found near churches, outside businesses and in front of homes.
Maggie Ballard, who lives in Wichita, Kansas, calls hers a "blessing box."
"I felt like this is something that I could do — something small that, you know, would benefit so many people so long as the word got out about it," she told NPR.
Ballard's box is bright red and is approximately two feet wide. It’s mounted on a post near the street, and Ballard and her son check the box daily and restock it when necessary.
"My son is 6 years old, so it gives him a little chore to kind of watch it and see what comes and goes and who comes and goes, and maybe learn a little lesson from it," she told NPR.
Ballard’s box has a door, but no lock, so it’s available at all hours of the day.
The idea of "yard-based" food pantries has been blossoming through social media over the past six months, NPR reported. They have been found in Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota and Oklahoma.
According to NPR, the origins of the pantry box can be traced to Arkansas resident Jessica McClard, who created what she calls the "little free pantry" in Fayetteville.
"The products that are stocked are put directly inside the pantry and turnover is in about 30 to 45 minutes," McClard told NPR. "The frequency of the turnover and the fact that other sites in town are also turning over that frequently, it suggests to me that the need is tremendous.”
In Muncie, Indiana, Jeannetta Presley created a "Blessing Box" and placed it near the end of her front yard. The outside of the small black cabinet is decorated with masking tape, reading "take what you need, bring what you can." Contents of the box include dry pasta, sugar, peanut butter, baby formula, diapers and shampoo.
"It's not a lot; it's a little," Presley told the Evansville Courier & Press. "But you can take a box of macaroni and cheese, a can of tuna and a can of peas, and you can make a casserole. And it's out there."
Ballard said most of the visitors to her pantry come when it's dark.
"Most of the traffic is in the middle of the night, I would say between midnight and 7 in the morning," she told NPR.
McClard said these community-supported pantries are multiplying because of their simple concept.
"We're all short on time and money, and this is a way that people can feel like they are making a difference," she told NPR.
"Everybody is just trying to survive," Presley told the Evansville Press & Courier. "If I can give somebody a dinner for one evening, then I did my part for that day, or if I just added something that they didn't have to make a dinner, then that's OK, too."