Curbside pantry aims to fight neighborhood food insecurity


Kaitlyn Scoville / The Advance-Titan — Mary Drephal, with two young children and a working husband, has stepped up to address food insecurity in her neighborhood on West 16th Avenue by putting up a curbside pantry.

Kaitlyn Scoville, Copy Desk Chief and Writer

A wide assortment of bright flowers and several butterflies accompany a renovated, painted and food-stocked wardrobe on the front lawn of a stay-at-home mother’s home.

Mary Drephal, with two young children and a working husband, has stepped up to address food insecurity in her neighborhood on West 16th Avenue by putting up a curbside pantry.

It runs as a “take when you need, leave when you can” basis, and Drephal said that she set up the pantry in March to help those around her in the beginning stages of COVID-19.\

Her best friend lost her job as a hairstylist and couldn’t get unemployment or other kinds of aid, so it was brought up that they were struggling to get groceries.

“It was just a realization for me because of the privilege I had,” Drephal said.

Drephal also said that her sister, a teacher, recognized that there is food insecurity among children now because of the coronavirus and how they haven’t been receiving food from schools.

According to an article on MDPI, a scholarly journal publisher, 44% of Americans surveyed experienced food insecurity when COVID-19 began.

“Kids come up and I try to have snack bars in there for that reason,” Drephal said. “I started putting toys and books out there, and I always have granola bars, raisins [and other snacks].”

Drephal also began putting toiletries in the pantry as well, and noticed that soap seemed to be the most in need among them.

She said that if somebody wanted to start their own pantry or donate to one, she would always look for perishable items such as:

  • Boxed meals
  • Canned soup
  • Canned fruits and vegetables
  • Toiletries such as soaps and deodorant

A friend of Drephal, Doug Sundin, created the website to locate small community pantries or libraries around Oshkosh.

Sundin said that folks who would like to put their own little pantry or little library on the website should go to

Drephal said that about a dozen people take from the pantry every day, and around one donates to it. She has seen a rise in families stopping as well.

Katilyn Scoville / The Advance-Titan — Mary Drephal’s Free Pantry is clearly visible in her front yard.

“At the beginning, I had all this food and now it seems like there’s more people who need than can give in this neighborhood,” she said. “I think there’s a need in the whole community.”

Drephal said that it’s also rewarding to see that her sons are catching on with her acts of kindness.

“Every day, they go up there and check and say ‘Mama, the peanut butter is gone,’ or ‘Mama, we need to get more of this,’” she explained. “One of my big things is raising them to not feel privileged and not to feel like they own the world.”

Drephal explained that she didn’t have to live in fear like many other people in the Oshkosh community, and she wanted to help in any way she could.

“It gave me such a sense of community to see that the need was out there,” Drephal said. “I had this privilege that I didn’t realize … Before COVID happened, there were so many things I took for granted.”

Drephal said that she hopes that her little free pantry will reach others and inspire them to create their own, or just donate to a local one. “If anyone has a cupboard hanging around, pop it up and throw some canned goods in it,” she suggested. “I want [people] to think that there is a place to go if someone’s hungry at any time. I want them to think that Oshkosh is a community that cares about people.”