EAST MISSOULA — When a woman in East Missoula was given the opportunity to start a “little free library” in her neighborhood, she quickly declined and said the real need in town is for a food bank.
East Missoula resident Erin O’Riordain cares so deeply for her community, she can’t ignore those who visibly need help - the homeless, the hungry, or folks who are down on their luck.
“There's so much disparity, income-wise, in Missoula,” said O’Riordain. “Missoula is advertised as this place for all, but that's only in the pamphlets and brochures, you know, it's not real.”
O’Riordain told MTN News that the income disparity is all too easy to see in East Missoula. For example, something as simple as driving into the city of Missoula to run errands and buy groceries isn’t as simple as it should be.
“We're a lower-income community, and not everybody here has a reliable car, a lot of people take the bus.”
Albertsons is the nearest grocery store, but even that’s about three miles away.
“You either walk there, and that route is incredibly dangerous, are you wait in all sorts of inclement weather for the bus,” said O’Riordain.
Awhile back, O’Riordain was approached by the campaign team of Tom Browder, asking if she would be interested in letting their team set up a little free library in front of her house.
Only two houses down from O'Riordain, one of these libraries was already established.
What East Missoula could use, according to O’Riordain, wasn’t another little library, but a pantry stocked with food, toiletries, hats and gloves.
From there, an idea was born.
The Browder team helped create a miscellaneous pantry in O'Riordain's yard. Now, her home in East Missoula is one of three little pantries scattered throughout town.
Members of the community are welcome to donate or use the pantries, coming and going as they please.
According to O’Riordain, the pantry on her property needs restocked nearly every day, emphasizing the need for such a resource.
Acknowledging that need is only step one, but O’Riordain said the real work requires action.
“It's easy to rail against it on your social media, because of how unfair everything is, but what you need is to actively get out of your comfort zone and help.”
You can find these little free food banks at the following locations:
- 546 Speedway Ave, East Missoula
- 423 Montana Ave, East Missoula
- 1st Street, Bonner-West Riverside
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