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Trinity Solebury parishioners, St. Philip’s New Hope join to feed neighbors with little free pantry

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At first glance, it looks like one of those tiny libraries that have sprouted up in recent years, or — more fancifully — a Southeast Asian spirit house.

But while the Holy Spirit may have had a hand in the tiny pantry at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in New Hope, its mission is straightforward: Provide groceries for those who need them. No questions asked.

“Many people in our area are experiencing poverty for the first time in their lives,” said the Rev. Michael Ruk, rector of St. Philip’s (stphilipsnewhope.org), at the pantry’s blessing on July 5.

“They may be too embarrassed to go to an actual food pantry. So, the invitation stands: come raid this one, day or night. That’s what it’s here for,” he added.

Sitting just off Route 202 on the Chapel Road side of the church’s property, the mini pantry at St. Philip’s was the idea of Kyle Evans, a Buckingham resident and Trinity Solebury parishioner who is in the discernment process to become an Episcopal deacon.

She enlisted Bill Yandle, a fellow Trinity parishioner and woodworker, to construct the pantry with the help of his son, Jonathan. Yandle used cedar shingles left over from his Carversville home to construct the pantry’s roof, giving it a distinctly Bucks County look.

“This is a great way to meet people where they are during COVID, people who are food insecure but want to remain anonymous,” Evans said of her project, noting that real food pantries have experienced about five times normal demand since the pandemic began.

Originally hoping to work in prison ministry, Evans pivoted to the pantry project when prisons closed to outsiders due to the virus. She hopes this is just the first of many such pantries in this area, and not just at churches.

Evans and Yandle initially planned to install the pantry outside their home parish of Trinity Solebury, but worried it might not have enough visibility there. They decided that St. Philip’s, near major roadways and with a parking lot across the street where people could pull off safely, was the strategic location they needed for their first pantry.

On the day it was installed, the tiny pantry at St. Philip’s had navy beans, canned tomatoes, toilet paper, sweet corn, a gallon jug of water, pasta and two kinds of chicken soup, among other goods for the taking. Made of ¾-inch plywood and Plexiglas, the pantry is tiny enough that its cupboards could go bare in a hurry. But its builder, Bill Yandle, isn’t worried.

“I have great faith in the generosity of our community, and I know this pantry will be well-stocked,” he said. “As they say in the mini-pantry movement, ‘Give what you can. Take what you need.’”

Since 2016, mini pantries have sprung up in almost all 50 states as well as internationally.

Ruk sees it as part of a larger rethinking of “how we’ve always done things” as a result of the pandemic. “With social distancing rules in place, we’re having to re-envision how we do ministry and outreach in general. This is a creative solution for the times,” he said.

For information on the tiny-pantry movement — including how to build your own pantry — go to freelittlepantry.org.

For information about St. Philip’s or its outreach programs, contact Ruk at 215-862-5782 or michael@stphilipsnewhope.org.


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