Edgecombe County town’s food pantry closing due to ‘abuse,’ operators say

North Carolina

Little Free Pantry of Macclesfield (LFPM via Facebook)

MACCLESFIELD, N.C. (WNCN) – An Edgecombe County food pantry will shut down this week after getting repeatedly wiped out as soon as it gets refilled, the operators said in a Facebook post.

Following community complaints, the Macclesfield mayor ordered the restoration of a small outdoor food pantry just days after its removal in November 2018.

That food pantry, the Little Free Pantry of Macclesfield, was created by UNC Wilmington student Courtney Dail as a way to provide non-perishable food items to hungry people in her small town. The program was part of a project she completed for the Future Farmers of America as a high school senior.

“Food insecurity plays a big part of our family. There were times when my mom or my sister didn’t have enough money and were concerned about where we were going to get our meals from,” Dail told CBS 17 last year.

Dail saved about $200 in tips from a job at a local restaurant to purchase supplies for the big birdhouse-like box which she built with her stepfather, Jack Jones. The structure has doors, windows, and shelves. Donors can put canned food in the box and recipients can take what they need.

The teenager presented her proposal to then-Mayor Trey Lewis and the Macclesfield commissioners, who approved the installation of the Little Free Pantry across the street from Town Hall.

Dail’s parents noticed on Nov. 3, 2018, that the box and its post were missing. Her mother, Kathy, made calls and learned that Mayor Mike Keel made the decision to remove the Little Free Pantry.

After Kathy confronted Keel at his home he relented and told town workers to reinstall the pantry.

Now less than a year later, the food pantry will be shut down due to what the operators are calling “abuse” of the pantry.

According to a Facebook post from Sunday, the operators of the pantry filled it on Saturday and came back Sunday to find that it had been nearly wiped out.

The post contains pictures of the full pantry from Saturday and the nearly empty pantry on Sunday.

“Someone took 5 BOXES OF MAC & CHEESE, 6 PACKS OF OODLES OF NOODLES, and all the other cans you see, 16 fruit granola bars, spaghetti sauce, spaghetti, Vienna sausage, etc… completely wiped out,” they wrote.

There was a previous issue a few weeks ago where one person kept emptying the pantry. One of the operators of the pantry spoke to the person after they admitted taking all of the food items and that person has not been back since, according to the post.

Despite that person not coming back, the pantry is still being emptied, they wrote.

“We can’t control this. But this type abuse can’t be tolerated either. Therefore unless someone else wants to take over The Free Little Pantry of Macclesfield, we will be taking it down,” the Facebook post reads.

The pantry could find a new home at someone’s home, but it’s not guaranteed.

“Once we take it down, we will decide if we want to put it up at our personal residence, but to be honest, if these type people do this, I really don’t want them around my home,” the operators wrote.

The “severity of abuse” is too much to continue operating the food pantry, they wrote on Facebook.

“I’m sorry if this makes anyone upset with us. We truly tried to help out our community and appreciate all the support. We cannot continue to ask for community help with the severity of abuse that is going on.”

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