Forward Indiana looks to unite neighbors with colorful community pantries

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Colorful pantries have started popping around Fort Wayne as Forward Indiana hopes to combat food insecurity in the city’s neighborhoods.

“If you needed a bag of sugar from your neighbor you’d go knock on their door, but during a pandemic, you want to stay in your own bubble,” said Forward Indiana’s Carlos Marcano.

Food insecurity often comes up in conversations about the south side of Fort Wayne, but Forward Indiana is looking at the whole picture with their community pantries.

“It started off that way but ultimately, we realized that everybody needs to eat,” said Marcano.
They ask that people only put into the pantry what they would take out and put in their own.

When it comes to location, Forward Indiana looks for businesses who understand their mission.

“The most important thing is that the host understands mutual aid,” said Forward Indiana’s Sarah Thompson. “They understand that it’s solidarity and not a charity thing.”

The pantries are eye-catching, many designed by local artists like Afro Plump and Phresh Laundry.

The goal is that they blend in with the character of the neighborhood while sticking out as a resource for the people who live there. A physical representation of the need, that inspires people, like Diana Hart and her family, to do more.

“We’re already operating a community food forest here and we really felt as we saw them popping up around town that it would be a good problem,” said Hart. “I see people coming and using it and then I will come down and check it and it was like, there will be new stuff in there that I didn’t see the time before so I know it’s not just being visited by people that are in need but there’s also people in the community that are bringing donations here.”

“I think it feels like she has her own little corner of the world,” added her granddaughter, Lorali Hart. “Hopefully, could make a bigger ripple.”

So far, Forward Indiana has installed 13 pantries in Fort Wayne and one in Leesburg, Indiana. Thompson said they have also seen interest coming from Warsaw, Angola, and Syracuse.

“They see that all it needs is you know, that little bit of kindness and now they’re doing it, and we hope that it can kind of take hold like that and everybody just started you know it starts that domino effect,” said Marcano.

“We’re just happy people’s eyes are being opened, and they’re moving forward in this direction of standing with others rather than looking down on others,” Thompson added.

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