Mackenzie Greenwood opens Little Free Pantry


Photo provided by Robert Greenwood

Mackenzie Greenwood is awarded he William Donald Schaffer Helping People Award by State Comptroller Peter Franchot. She was the youngest Marylander to win this award.

Sydney Powell, Reporter

Take a second. Think back on those wonderful, carefree, ordinary afternoons after getting home from elementary school, of going home, relaxing, maybe taking a nap, and then going outside to meet friends for a game or two of hide and seek. Fifth-grader Mackenzie Greenwood, daughter of social studies teacher Rob Greenwood, is anything but ordinary.

Mackenzie spends her time after school stocking and checking supplies at Hampstead’s Free Little Pantry behind St. John’s United Methodist Church on Main Street. She thought of and initiated the pantry herself. With the help of her parents (former Hereford teacher) Jennifer Greenwood, (social studies teacher) Robert Greenwood, and with the support of her church, Mackenzie collects food donations, along with some hygiene items, to keep the pantry stocked and accessible to all those in need in her community.

Mackenzie came up with the idea after hearing and seeing stories about the popular Little Free Library non-profit organization that offers free book exchanges in neighborhoods all over the world. Hereford High has one, sponsored by the school’s chapter of the National English Honor Society outside of the auditorium. She thought she could use that idea to benefit her own community, but instead of books, it could be food.

“I saw a Little Free Library online, and I also saw something with food, so I thought it would be a really cool idea to start one in my community,” Mackenzie said.

“The first thing we did was supported the idea, and encouraged her to contact the church,” Mackenzie’s father, and (Hereford?) teacher Robert Greenwood said. “She had to write a speech and go to a meeting to give a presentation to the church council.”

After deciding to pursue the project, Mackenzie talked to her pastor at St. John’s United Methodist Church, who completely supported the idea for the food pantry at the church. The council voted in favor of the idea, so Mackenzie set to work in creating Hampstead’s first Free Little Pantry.

Mackenzie also presented the idea to a local venturing crew who then built the building that is used for the pantry.

The pantry itself is situated at the back of the church in order to keep the interactions anonymous. Mackenzie maintains a log to keep track of what items are being taken and donated.

The pantry has been visited and items have been taken over 500 times in the past year. It has never been empty, and the number of donations from the community is over 300.

Mackenzie takes an avid role in making sure there is always food available for whomever needs it. When items get sparse, she uses the pantry’s Facebook page to send out a call to the community asking for donations.

“About every other day we go up to check on it,” Robert Greenwood said.

Along with successfully being able to keep the pantry stocked at all times, Mackenzie has undoubtedly succeeded in leaving a positive impact on her community.

“I definitely think [Free Little Pantry] has been a success because you don’t really see people on the streets, homeless people, you know, in Hampstead, but really you open something like this and it really does surprise you to see there are really people using it. It’s good,” Mackenzie said.

Mackenzie has been recognized for her efforts, most recently by the Baltimore Orioles as a Birdland Community Service Hero, for her work to serve the Maryland community. Her efforts will be honored in a pregame ceremony on Opening Day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

In the future, instead of opening more locations on their own, Hampstead’s Free Little Pantry will be setting up a grant system to help fund others who also wish to make a difference in their own communities.

“We probably won’t be operating anymore,” Mackenzie said, “but we will encourage other people to start them.”