Lawn Food Pantries Sprout Around U.S.

Visitors are invited to take a can of food, or leave one

Food pantries are usually found in community centers, churches or shelters—not on someone's lawn. But a small movement is starting to change that. In Wichita, Kansas, Maggie Ballard and her six-year-old son, Paxton, have installed what they call a blessings box in their front yard. It's a red box that stands on a wooden peg and is filled with pantry items and hygiene products like toothpaste.

The tiny door, which is left unlocked, has a sign on it that says, "Take a blessing when you need one. Leave [a] blessing when you can." She has seen families take a bag of bagels on Christmas Eve and others leave cans of food like plums. "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 tells NPR.

Boxes like Ballard's are often traced back to one called the Little Free Pantry Jessica McClard started in northwest Arkansas. Some, like the Blessing Box in Oklahoma, are church projects that allow visitors to take or leave food, as well as leave a prayer in a locked "prayer box." As for Ballard and her son, some visitors have left thank-you notes.