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Makenzie Greenwood, 14, founded the Little Free Pantry in Hampstead

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Posted at 5:00 AM, Mar 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-25 07:19:20-04

HAMPSTEAD, Md. — For the last five years, 14-year-old Makenzie Greenwood has made near-daily trips to the Little Free Pantry in Hampstead to make sure the pantry shelves are fully stocked.

She started the Little Free Pantry when she was nine years old, with a mission to help feed families in her community.

"The original idea was based off a Little Free Library. That’s exactly what it is, just give a book, take a book but we do it with food," she said. "It is crazy how much it has grown."

The pantry is housed in a prayer chapel that belongs to St. John's United Methodist Church. It sits behind the church, next to the cemetery and away from Main Street. There is a sheet on the door to the pantry to keep track of how many people either take food or drop off donations everyday. No names or addresses are required.

"The biggest thing about the pantry is that it is completely anonymous," said Greenwood.

Rev. Dr. Melissa Rudolph is the pastor at St. John's UMC. She said when Greenwood approached the church about setting up the Little Free Pantry, her request was approved almost immediately.

"Every time people learn that [the pantry] exists, they are overwhelmed with gratitude," Dr. Rudolph said. "It is such a simple concept to come in, leave food if you want to donate, but also take something that can fill the gap when you can’t go to a larger facility that would have a long intake process."

The prayer chapel is filled with non-perishable food, all donated by the community. Greenwood said the food donations are so plentiful that she is able to use the monetary donations for other initiatives, like Veggie Vouchers.

"Those are just like gift cards to go and get fresh produce because that is something that the pantry cannot hold or it would go bad," she said.

Greenwood said they've used the money to purchase meals at the holidays and distribute grants to kids across the country so they can start a Little Free Pantry in their own community. She goes to churches, youth groups, schools and national conferences to share her vision and its success.

"I’ve been able to talk to kids about how they can start their own community service project and its been a great opportunity to try to spread the movement."

Greenwood estimates they've fed more than 7,000 people and the numbers keep going up. She'll never know their names or see their faces but she understands the impact she's made on the lives of those served by the Little Free Pantry, as well as the impact its had on her own life.

"It has really taught me to be so grateful for every ounce of support I get from my family," she said.

If you would like to support Hampstead's Little Free Pantry, click here for more information.