There’s been people sleeping in the Little Free Pantry

A little more than a year ago, the Little Free Pantry, built by a local couple and donated to the town, opened in Bethlehem. Larger than the free food pantries in neighboring towns, it is a shed that includes heat and a refrigerator, both of which are not common in the smaller pantries. The mission is to provide 24/7 access for those in need. But recent incidents of persons sleeping inside on more than one occasion, and possible drug use, put the Select Board at odds about what should be done. Select Board member April Hibberd said “There’s been people sleeping in the pantry and the police have definitely raised concerns about people’s safety.”  In her research on little free pantries, Hibberd said most are shed-like structures that people cannot go into. In addition to people being found sleeping in the current shed, there have been instances of people stopping by in a pickup truck and emptying out the food. And then there’s been vandalism. While full access to those who need the pantry is the goal, Hibberd said she thinks the town can eventually get there, but the pantry has to be safe as well and she would not like to see a child with a parent go inside to find someone sleeping or find someone dealing with drug addiction.