116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - Outside the door on the side of First United Methodist Church in downtown Iowa City sits a small, wooden box.
It's stocked with food and toiletries and is there to help anyone at any time, said Jack Ballard, the City High senior responsible for the 'Little Free Pantry,” which was installed recently as part of his effort to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.
Ballard, 18, says food insecurity is the problem he hopes to address.
'It's not one that I want people to worry about,” Ballard said. 'I think this really encourages just to conserve and keep the idea in mind that you need to give back.”
Ballard said he got the idea for his Eagle Scout project from his parents who saw a Little Free Pantry on social media. The concept began is Arkansas last year and many pantries are based off Little Free Library designs.
Little Free Pantries often cannot provide the quantity and variety that typical food banks can but they have fewer barriers such as not requiring applications or holding only certain hours of operation, according to littlefreepantry.org.
Ballard worked on the project with members of Boy Scout Troop 212, as well as the church, 214 E. Jefferson St., to build, install and supply the pantry.
Now that it's up and running, Ballard said he checks on the supplies about once a week. The Rev. Barrie Tritle, of First United Methodist Church, said church members drop off donations in a bin on Sunday mornings from which the pantry is restocked.
Tritle said his church has always tried care for those in the community in need and he recognizes that food insecurity is a problem in Johnson County. He added that items 'do disappear” from the pantry.
In all, Ballard estimates that 148 hours were spent on the project, including time spent shopping, on construction and installation and stocking the pantry, as well as sending letters to community members and organizations encouraging them to build their own pantries.
In addition to the Little Free Pantry project, which required Ballard to show leadership, he had to meet a number of other requirements to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, including remaining active in the troop, completing service hours and presenting his final service project during a review council process.
'I just think it was a great thing for Jack to do and I think the church warmly embraced it,” Tritle said. 'We're proud of Jack and we're glad to be a part of it.”
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