A new structure at the Southwest corner of Beth El Synagogue’s property will help Omahans in need for years to come.

    The Little Free Pantry provides immediate assistance to people who need a little assistance. Unlike a food bank, a Little Free Pantry gives anonymous, easy-access, 24/7 short-term help.

    A Little Free Pantry is similar to the Little Free Libraries that attract readers in neighborhoods all over the country. But instead of books, Little Free Pantries contain food and necessities. The mini pantry movement’s website describes the program as a “grassroots, crowdsourced solution to immediate and local need.” It is neighbor helping neighbor. The pantries operate under the slogan, “Give what you can, take what you need.”

    The slogan has become a reality since the pantry was installed in August 2021. Items are removed from the pantry almost daily, and anonymous donors have provided food and basic supplies. Some of the items that have had the most need thus far are diapers and toilet paper.

    Rabbi Steven Abraham of Beth El Synagogue says the Little Free Pantry fits perfectly into the values Jews strive to keep within their own lives. “Judaism is about caring for the widow, the orphan and the stranger. Judaism is about looking after those less fortunate. The reason synagogues MUST have windows is because we are commanded to see the world outside of our walls. The Little Free Pantry is just another example of us trying to live out our values in the world we inhabit.”

    The mini pantry movement began in 2016 in Fayetteville, AR. Five years later, there are more than 1600 mini pantries in the United States. According to the Little Free Pantry web site, there are 17 mini pantries in Omaha, including the one at Beth El Synagogue.

    Everyone in the Omaha Jewish community is encouraged to participate by volunteering to oversee the pantry for one week. It’s an easy, rewarding experience for people of all ages. Some of the responsibilities include refilling the pantry with everyday supplies and nonperishable food, cleaning the pantry, and removing any unsafe or perishable items.

    For more information and to volunteer, visit the following page: https://www.bethel-omaha.org/form/little-free-pantry.html.