When the coronavirus pandemic got underway, public libraries and their staff continued to fight food insecurity, even when their doors were closed.
Some library workers were reassigned to food banks to help process and distribute donations. Others worked with food banks to hand out grab-and-go meals in library parking lots.
Still others established emergency food pantries at libraries.
In St. Louis, the county public library system took part in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farmers to Families program. Libraries everywhere, from Kentucky and Vermont to California and Georgia, participated in the emergency national food distribution program too.
Many libraries have started to host small food pantries located outdoors, in little boxes with doors. These sharing boxes are modeled on the "little free library" movement. These micro-libraries are usually simple cabinets fastened to posts and stocked with books anyone passing by can take for free. The little free pantry movement, which began in 2016 and seems to have expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic, instead seeks to dispatch food to those in need.
In 2021, by the middle of May, at least 491 libraries in 28 states had made plans to serve meals to schoolchildren during their summer vacations. This number is only preliminary and will rise once more states report their data to the USDA.
Noah Lenstra is assistant professor of library and information science at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. You can find the original article here.