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Providing help during the pandemic: Mini-pantries pop up around SLO County

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Posted at 8:58 PM, Feb 20, 2021

In several cities across San Luis Obispo County, you might see mini-pantries propped up outside of homes filled with canned goods, household items, and toiletries.

"It's a welcoming invite if you are walking by our house, if you are in our city, or if you are one of our neighbors; it's a simple little outreach," said San Luis Obispo pantry host Tim Jouet.

Several of the pop-ups started from the Facebook group HelpSLO, founded by San Luis Obispo County resident Leah Wood.

While there were some mini-pantries in SLO County before this group was started, Wood says they were able to add more sites in the community with the help and partnership of Central Coast Rotary Clubs and residents who wanted to help others in need.

Wood says there are 10 active pantries: six in San Luis Obispo, three in Los Osos, and one in Oceano that her group is aware of.

"We want to make them really accessible for people that need them so they don't have any question of where [they] can turn and get a granola bar or some peanut butter or some socks," Wood said.

Providing an open place for those to take what they need, some pantry hosts say their involvement stemmed from wanting to help others who were struggling with the impacts of the pandemic.

"I thought this is a way to provide for our community without any sort of shame or stigma," said San Luis Obispo County pantry host, Katie Grainger.

In a survey of 2,000 Americans conducted by Two Good Yogurt and market research company Onepoll, of those experiencing food insecurity for the first time, 70% of respondents struggled to find the support they needed when they were faced with food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Community organizers say they hope to help put more pop up mini-pantries around the county in the near future.

You can find more information about pop-up sites here.