The Little Free Food Pantry at the Washington riverfront has been removed due to a litany of complaints from the public and reports to the police over litter and an unsafe atmosphere the pantry attracted.
Washington Parks and Recreation Director Darren Dunkle said in the year the pantry was operational at Rennick Riverfront Park, his department had received numerous complaints about the cleanliness of the park and an “unsafe atmosphere.”
“They were getting the food but then throwing the trash on the ground,” Dunkle said. “It was causing a lot of problems — safety issues and vandalism.”
Dunkle said the pantry is a good project and serves a great purpose, but could perhaps be placed in a better location. He added that while the pantry was serving its purpose, some people weren’t treating the park with respect.
“Even though it was a great idea and a great purpose it wasn’t the right location,” Dunkle said. “We thought it was best to remove it and work with the group that placed it there to possibly find another location for it.”
Washington Detective Sgt. Steve Sitzes said there have been reports of intoxicated individuals “running amok” at the riverfront park, making a mess after using the pantry.
“People were using it and just throwing the garbage and trash all over,” Sitzes said.
The pantry opened in April of last year. The spot on the riverfront was chosen because it was well-lit.
Akin to Little Free Libraries, the pantry is a box stocked with food and some toiletries. The motto of the little pantry is “Take what you need, give back what you can.”
The Washington City Council backed the placement of the pantry at the riverfront last year. The riverfront location was the first of many planned pantries.
The box wasn’t just for the homeless, but also for families that don’t qualify for other food pantries.
Franklin County Community Resource Board Executive Director Annie Foncannon said the pentry’s removal is unfortunate, as it was serving its purpose at the riverfront.
“It’s much needed,” Foncannon said. “It was used not only by the homeless population in the area but also by senior citizens who have run out of Social Security money at the end of the month and still needed food.”
She said, from her understanding, most of the vandalism wasn’t done by the homeless, but by teenagers with nothing better to do.
Currently the resource board is looking for a new location for its pantry.
“It was fairly popular so we’re hoping to find a new spot that is convenient for those who use it,” Foncannon said.