What started as a kitchen cupboard filled with donations during the pandemic quickly grew into a county-wide effort to provide food, toys, clothing and toiletries to those who need it most.
Today there are more than ten little free pantries in San Luis Obispo and more than 30 across San Luis Obispo County. The community members running them say even though this effort started during the pandemic there is still just as much need in the community, especially among parents.
Take what you need leave what you can is the motto of little free pantries across San Luis Obispo County.
"There was a lot of need," said Judy Lewelling, Little Free Pantry Owner.
"I still see the need. There are people here every day," said Lewelling.
Judy Lewelling grew up on San Jose Court in San Luis Obispo and felt continued support from the community throughout her life.
"I know it's tough and I raised my daughter as a single mom, so I get it," said Lewelling.
As a construction worker, she found a way to give back to the community through little free pantries. She says her coworkers jumped at the opportunity to help out by constructing a waterproof little free pantry with a roof in order to keep food from going bad.
"This is our way of paying back," said Lewelling.
Other community members say the little free pantry has given them a chance to give back to a community that means so much to them.
"We're retired public teachers and we always feel like we have benefited from that in our retirement, and we like to give back," said Donna & Gary Stutzman, Little Free Pantry Contributors.
The success of the little free pantry program is apparent to volunteers when filling empty pantries week after week.
"Everything that's happened over the last couple of years, it's not the fault of a child. They still need their Froot Loops," said Lewelling.
Lewelling looks out for community members by not only providing basic necessities but also fulfilling some special requests.
"I get notes sometimes from children that want Froot Loops and Lucky Charms, so I just do it and put their name on it," said Lewelling.
Lewelling encourages anyone with a request to leave a note with their name on it inside the pantry on the top shelf.
"If you have extra leave it. If you need it, come get it," said Lewelling.
The little free food pantry owners on Broad Street are moving and are looking for someone to take over running their pantry. If interested, visit the Help SLO Facebook page.
For a full list of little free pantry locations across the county click here.