Tucked into a small corner of Oklahoma City's Plaza District is something new. A small wooden cupboard filled for those in need. It's called the Pine Pantry.
“Everybody was a little apprehensive because nobody knew exactly what it was and we didn't know what it was going to look like in the Plaza District,” Pine Pantry founder Aley Cristelli said.
The pantry stands roughly 5.5 feet tall with glass doors on the front, labeled with the slogan “Leave what you can. Take what you need.” Inside the shelves are filled with canned food, dry goods and even diapers and shampoo. The idea is modeled after a similar pantry in McKinney, Texas.
Cristelli doesn’t run the pantry for a living. Her day job is in public health while she goes to grad school and somehow finds the time to give back. She said she’s looking to take a bite out of hunger in Oklahoma. But it’s a big undertaking, according to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, nearly 1 in 5 people statewide don't know where their next meal is coming from.
“Something that's just really important to me. That everybody has something to eat because we have so much,” Cristelli said.
But this little pine box is about more than just a place for crackers or cans, it's giving others a helping hand when they need it the most.
“The Plaza District is great because there's a great sense of community down here,” said Cristelli. “All the shop owners really care about this space and I know they're going to take ownership of this space.”
So far the Pine Pantry is the only one in Oklahoma City, but there are already plans to go beyond the Plaza District. Cristelli also runs an Instagram and Facebook account under @pinepantry so people can check when supplies are getting low.