By Mallory Herrmann

There’s a new pantry in town: a necessity pantry, built by local Girl Scouts, in front of Lee’s Summit Elementary. Believed to be the first of its kind in the Kansas City area, the concept takes after the Little Free Library, which gives community readers an opportunity to take a book and return a book.

Mia Gallegos, left, and Jenna Haefner proudly stand with the necessity pantry they installed on August 9 outside Lee’s Summit Elementary

Mia Gallegos and Jenna Haefner, seventh graders at Pleasant Lea Middle School, installed the pantry to help those in need of a meal or an extra snack – or even personal hygiene items.

“There are a lot of kids in our school that are less fortunate,” Gallegos said. The necessity pantry gives them an extra layer of support, and Gallegos and Haefner couldn’t be prouder to see it open.

Schools often provide services like the Harvesters BackSnack program, which gives students a backpack with easy-to-prepare food for the weekend (when they won’t have access to free and reduced meals at school). But Gallegos admits it can be embarrassing for kids to take advantage of the handout, or to have to skip a school meal because their lunch account doesn’t have any money left.

The pantry contains items donated by Girl Scout Troop 143 and members of the community, including non-perishable food items, personal hygiene items such as deodorant and tampons, and protection from the elements, like rain ponchos and emergency blankets. The message painted on the front encourages its visitors to “take what you need, leave what you can.”

The pantry’s location, at Wilson and SE Green, was chosen to support both Lee’s Summit Elementary students and the homeless population in downtown Lee’s Summit.

Haefner says they have a second pantry already built, but that they’re still scouting a location for it. The troop welcomes input from the community for where it should go, and they hope to see even more pantries go up around town.

Gallegos and Haefner completed the pantry project to earn the Girl Scout Silver Award, the highest award a Girl Scout Cadette can achieve.