Dec. 1, 2017

A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on Oct. 25 to commence one of two “Little Free Pantry” locations in Storm Lake. The small, watertight structures were put into action by Buena Vista University (BVU) student, Taylor Loy, and are used to house food items that are available for anyone in the community.

“The more I learned about the Little Free Pantry project, the more I felt it could be very positive for our community,” said Loy, a junior political science and Spanish double major from Indianola.

The Little Free Pantry project was launched in May 2016 by Jessica McClard of Fayetteville, Ark., who became intrigued by the free book exchange concept behind the nonprofit organization, Little Free Library. The Little Free Pantry applies a similar concept, but seeks to address hyperlocal food insecurity by providing small structures enclosed with free food items and other essentials.

Loy learned of the project through Dr. Ashley Farmer-Hanson, assistant dean for student life and director of civic engagement at BVU, and successfully presented the idea to BVU leadership in May.

“The Little Free Pantry is a perfect addition to the Storm Lake community,” said Farmer-Hanson. “Taylor put a significant amount of time into researching hunger and food insecurity in Storm Lake and worked really hard to gather support for the idea to come to fruition. 

“The more I learned about the Little Free Pantry project, the more I felt it could be very positive for our community.”

Taylor Loy

Loy used funds from the Meinhard Endowed Service Award — which is awarded annually to one BVU student for outstanding volunteer service to the University — to cover the costs of the project.

“I have always had a passion for addressing hunger and food insecurity but didn’t know where to start,” said Loy. “Without these funds I’m not sure if I ever would have been able to help implement an initiative like this. It means a lot to me that there are service awards available because it gives students the opportunity to pursue a passion that they might not have been able to otherwise.”

One of the pantries is located near the BVU campus on the corner of Iowa Street and College Avenue. The other is situated near the corner of Vestal Street and Ninth Street in Storm Lake. Loy is hoping community members feel empowered to help stock and maintain the pantries. 

“My ultimate goal is for everyone to take part in the pantries and that anyone and everyone in the community feels free and welcome to take what they need, as well as leave what they can for others,” said Loy. “I also want to reiterate how amazing the support for this project has been and thank everyone who has helped make it happen.”

Farmer-Hanson added, “The pantries are a wonderful way to provide food to those in need and to bring neighbors together to support one another. Taylor is incredibly passionate and driven to see this succeed and to have one less hungry person in our community because of it.”

To learn more about the Little Free Pantry project, visit