Rittenhouse Street became popular in Germantown when the pandemic disrupted lives. At two sites on the street, wooden signs with phrases like “we will get through this together,” draw neighbors to waterproof plastic containers filled with nonperishable food items. They are the mini food pantries in Germantown.
Samantha Siegel operates one on the 200 Block of Rittenhouse. She said she knows that the pantry will not solve hunger, but it can help those in tough, temporary situations.
“So what you’re gonna find in there are like some toiletries that might be like an extra item,” Siegel said, “or you know, some extra canned goods that could help you in a pinch.”
Siegel’s pantry consists of an assortment of items, from canned goods and rice to hard to find items like diapers and baby wipes. The Germantown resident also receives requests on Facebook for special needs like foods for gluten-free and diabetic diets. As a result, Siegel started a GoFundMe, which exceeded it’s $1,500 goal last weekend.
“So anyone who reaches out, they’re always really beautifully humble and modest, Siegel said, “ and I’m like, we can buy you your whole week of groceries right now, but tell me.”
Four blocks down the street from Siegel is a second mini food pantry, started by Dana Rummery.
Rummery was inspired by Siegel’s pantry, and said it wasn’t a difficult decision. She and Siegel agree it is a neighborly solution that is typically accepted. “ I think most people right now realize there’s a lot of people who don’t have food, so why not put it out,” Rummery said.
Rummery’s pantry encourages neighbors to exchange goods. A bright blue, hand painted sign encourages passersby to “leave what you can,” and “take what you need”.
“If you don’t need the food,” Rummery said, “I think it would be great if you’re walking by or something, just to drop a can or something in.”
Both women said their food pantries are heavily used, and essential items like diapers clear out quickly. Most people retrieve items at night, which may improve their privacy ,according to Siegel. She said digging through a bin for groceries doesn’t feel great.
Siegel plans to expand her food pantry by building a cabinet to replace her plastic bin. The larger installation will resemble kitchen cabinets in hopes of creating a more comfortable experience for those in need. In the meantime, both woman are disinfecting their pantries and continue asking for donations.