Little Free Pantry provides free food for the Luther community

The Little Free Pantry in the CFL. Photo courtesy of

The Cafeteria, Grab-N-Go, Marty’s, Nordic Brew, Oneota and Nordic Mart are all closed for the day. What is a hungry student supposed to do? One potential answer is to use a donation-based, fully accessible community pantry. This idea created what is now known as the Little Free Pantry. 


The Little Free Pantry is a three-foot shelf that contains non-perishable food and snacks for people to donate and take from. It is located in the Multifaith Meditation Room (what used to be called the Chapel) in the Center for Faith and Life (CFL). The pantry is restocked every week, especially during times like the end of semester when students are more likely to run out of meal swipes. Luther community members have 24/7 access to the Multifaith Meditation Room to ensure that everyone gets the support they need at all times. 


College Ministries sponsors the pantry. Director of College Ministries and College Pastor Melissa Bills says the original goal of the pantry was to help people, especially those who have limited access to food.


“There was interest in making a little free pantry onsite here at Luther, specifically thinking about how to support students who are somehow facing food insecurity or get their meals in the Caf and don’t have a budget for snacks,” Bills said. “One of the big emphasis has been trying to have Little Free Pantry stocked over breaks when the Caf is closed for international students and other students who might be on campus during a break when there’s no Caf access.”


In addition to the Little Free Pantry’s main location and donation box in the Center for Faith and Life’s Multifaith Meditation Room, there is a secondary pantry in the Union across from the welcome desk as well as donation boxes in every residence hall. People usually donate a wide variety of non-perishables, such as cereals, rice, tea, hygiene products, wet wipes, ramen, and school supplies. For all the locations on campus, Bills specifically wants to emphasize the independent nature of the pantry program.


“There are no stipulations on who can take and who can give,” Bills said. “The understanding is that you take what you need and give what you can, so it’s self-sustaining.”


The person who works closest with the upkeep of the pantry is Anna Beaverson (‘24). Beaverson has a work study position in the College Ministries office and became the coordinator of the Little Free Pantry two years ago. Since Beaverson stepped into the position, a main focus of the Little Free Pantry team has been making the campus community aware of the resource. Beaverson points to the importance of the pantry’s community focus. 


“The pantry is all about giving from those who are able and taking for those who are in need of support and help,” Beaverson said. 


Office Coordinator Kate Matth is also heavily involved in the upkeep of the pantry. She said that an unexpected development in the Little Free Pantry movement at Luther is that students are using the residence hall donation bins as their own community pantries. 


“When we go check them, we often notice that from week to week, there’s still food in the bins, but it’s always different from the week before,” Matth said. “They’re using it as their own Little Free Pantry, which we didn’t count on, but it’s amazing that they are.”


Information on what donations are in high demand can be found on Little Free Pantry postcards that have been distributed to various offices around campus, and donation bins can be found in the residence hall lounges.