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Little Free Food Pantry program expands through retired newspaper boxes in Dubuque

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Matt and Chase Cornwall

DUBUQUE, Iowa (KWWL) -- Retired newspaper boxes are allowing Dubuque residents to set up pantries of food and personal care items to fight food and item security for those in need. The initiative is a part of Dubuque's Little Free Food Pantry program.

10 newspaper boxes, donated by the Telegraph Herald's parent company Woodward Communications, have been set up so far. One of the boxes can be seen at Garfield Avenue and Humbold Street.

Another one of these boxes belongs to Dubuque residents Matt and Chase Cornwall. The Cornwalls have volunteered to host and maintain their box with products as a way to give back to their local community.

“I had seen Little Free Food Pantries all over town, and I really liked the idea of them,” Matt Cornwall said.

“When I saw the opportunity to host one come up on Facebook, I thought it would make a nice addition to the neighborhood.”

The program gained momentum when the pandemic hit two years ago. The original pantries were wooden structures built on properties across the county. Now, the donated newspaper boxes make for a more convenient grab-and-go experience.

The program has a network of providers as well.  Providers include program steward Andy Spaniol, food provider network facilitator Jason Nieles, the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, and the Feed Dubuque County network. 

Through the network, the program continued to grow. Now, food donations are pouring in from across the county.

“That food network meeting is so awesome, because everyone in this line of work is there, and it connects us with so many other resources,” Spaniol said.

In their neighborhood, neighbors also help by making donations directly to the boxes.

They say that canned goods such as vegetables and personal care items are the most in demand products to be donated. Matt Cornwall says he restocked the box 10 times in the first 3 weeks of it being open.

“The only thing I wish is that the box was bigger,” he says. “That way we could do even more.”