The story of the Tiny Purple Pantries starts when I saw the lines at the food pantries in my neighborhood grow longer and longer. So many people are now unemployed, hungry or homeless because of this pandemic and the pride or shame someone might feeling having to join that line for the first time felt very real. I also thought about the amount of food my family wastes on a weekly basis and wondered if there was an easy, no-contact, anonymous way to share our abundance with those who could use it.
Inspired by the mini libraries I've seen pop up, I decided to make some small wooden boxes. Full disclosure; I don't have any training as a woodworker, but I dabble and I build all the sets for the productions at the school where I teach geometry. So, the pantries may be a little crude and "informal" as Mary Berry might say, but they get the job done. And they are are getting more use than I ever could have imagined. I put 5 up in the Ditmas Park, Kensington, Windsor Terrace area and they get filled and emptied almost every day. I made another 5 after that and then upped the ante to 15 for a total of 25 pantries. One day they might be as ubiquitous as mailboxes.
I know it's not much, and there are systemic injustices that need to be addressed when so many people go hungry in such a wealthy nation. Those absolutely should be addressed, but in the mean time, a family on your block is going hungry tonight and you don't know about it. Furthermore, not only do these pantries stave off hunger for some of our neighbors, but it also brings the community together in a way I couldn't have imagined. Kindness and connection are bursting out of people. This pandemic has made us all hungry for community and this is a nice way to rebuild those broken bridges.
What does the future hold for the Tiny Purple Pantry project? While it's nice to hold the hope that food insecurity won't be a prevalent issue in the community, that feels like a distant future. In the mean time, I want to make tiny purple pantries as ubiquitous as mailboxes. This means that the production of them has to expand beyond my borrowed basement wood shop. I'm resistant to the idea of outsourcing to an entity disconnected from the community. While it may be more efficient, it eliminates some of the community ownership and connection to the project. If someone helps build or even just paint their pantry, it will carry more pride and connection than just having one delivered and installed. These should be made by the community, for the community.
My vision is to create a practical math maker-space for young people to learn how to build pantries and other community benefiting projects. It would incorporate many of the standards and principles I try to convey in my math classroom, but all principles will be applied to the project of the day. We'll use trigonometry ratios to determine the hypotenuse of a roof. We'll use operations with fractions to calculate the measurement of a frame to a 16th of an inch. We'll determine the volume of soil needed to fill a cylindrical garden bed. I hope to never hear the phrase "why do we have to learn this?" in the practical math workshop as every geometry, trigonometry and algebra principle will be directly applied in the moment. It's a teacher's pipe dream, yes. But one I think I can make a reality.
I also hope to hone my woodworking skills and share my passion for this hobby with other women who may shy away from power tools because the use of them by women doesn't fit within traditional gender roles.
Feed coming soon