'Little Free Pantry' serves Johnson City's food insecure

Maddox and River stock the Little Free Pantry, which serves the food insecure along Unaka Ave. in Johnson City

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. -- Sandy Wade is known as 'Yaw-Yaw' by her grandsons, River and Maddox. The 3 and 5-year-olds have picked up an unusual hobby: giving food to those who are hungry.

A couple of times a week, Wade, River and Maddox bring food to the Little Free Pantry on Unaka Ave., where the food insecure can take what they need to get by.

"We try not to get any junk food but we try to get something a little bit special, just in case some young children are involved," Wade said.

Little Free Pantry is nothing more than a wooden box on the side of the road, but it provides hope for those who don't know where their next meal will come from.

Kim Bushore-Maki founded Shakti in the Mountains, a community support organization serving women and children. When one of her volunteers proposed the idea for Shakti's front lawn, Bushore-Maki jumped at the plan.

"It really only took maybe a week for this to catch," Bushore-Maki said. "Folks from all over donate to this pantry. I call them the angels because I frequently don't even see them."

River and Maddox feel sad when the pantry is empty, so they have some advice for all of us.

"I would say, 'come put some food in it,'" Maddox said.

Timely advice, with it only taking a couple of hours for the pantry to be cleaned out. The Little Free Pantry is in significant need of donations.

Bushore-Maki hopes to share the building plans for the Little Free Pantry with other businesses and organizations, so every neighborhood in Johnson City can have a Little Free Pantry.

You can contact Bushore-Maki at

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