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North St. Paul woman sets up 'Little Free Food Shelf'

"If people need something, just come and take it. It's okay to need help," said Rachel Thompson of North St. Paul.

NORTH ST PAUL, Minnesota — Since moving to North St. Paul last year, Rachel Thompson has wanted to get a Little Free Library for outside her home. While Thompson does not have one of the book-sharing boxes yet, she recently saw online someone switch their Little Free Library into a Little Free Food Shelf to help people impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. 

"I thought, I don't have a library but I can make a food pantry," Thompson said. 

On Saturday, Thompson set up her Little Free Food Shelf using a book shelf and some boxes. Non-perishable food, books and puzzles are set up outside her driveway during the day. She then brings it all inside at night. 

A sign sits out front that says, "Take what you need, leave what you can." 

Credit: Heidi Wigdahl
Non-perishable food, books and puzzles are set up outside Rachel Thompson's driveway during the day. She then brings it all inside at night.

"I started it to help out my neighbors of North St. Paul. Someone who may be a teacher, somebody who may be out of a job right now," Thompson said, adding that it's also keeping her busy while stuck inside. 

Thompson said the response has been great. She gets about five to ten visits each day. Neighbors have also been dropping off donations. 

"There's a little old lady who brought up one little teeny tiny can of tomatoes because I think she just wanted to contribute. So I sit in my makeshift office and get teary watching people bring this stuff in," Thompson said. 

Thompson said the most popular items include kids' snacks and paper products, like toilet paper. The Little Free Food Shelf currently doesn't have any toilet paper but Thompson was even donating her own for awhile. 

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"I'm down to like three rolls. I was at Target yesterday and there is none so I can't give anymore of my own toilet paper away," Thompson said, laughing. 

While COVID-19 calls for distance, the Little Free Food Shelf is helping bring Thompson and her neighbors together from afar. 

"I'm new. I just moved here in October and to see this community come together... I don't regret moving here at all," Thompson said. "I have a lot of invitations to buy me a beer when we can get back out and moving around." 

The Little Free Food Shelf can be found near the corner of 9th Avenue East and Division Street N. in North St. Paul. 

It's usually out between 9 a.m. and 7:30-8:00 p.m. 

Anyone is welcome and if you'd like to donate, Thompson said there is a need for more kids' snacks. 

"If people need something, just come and take it. It's okay to need help," Thompson said. 

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The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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