A judgment-free zone for the hungry

Greenwood woman opens a little free pantry for those in need of food and toiletries

By Angela Morefield

One of the biggest problems people face is that they might be going hungry, or without food for their family at all. Some might not even seek help because of fear of being criticized.

Johnson County, like every county, has a hunger problem. Michelle Waugh Dahl, who is also the mother of five children, decided to do something to help this problem when pantries are closed, or people can’t get to them in her Johnson County community. Dahl put a wooden cabinet outside her Franklin house filled with food and toilet paper. Michelle’s Little Free Pantry was then brought to life.

Christina Nelson-Canfield is following Michelle’s lead and has started a second pantry in Greenwood. “When I went through a divorce in 2006, I felt so alone with a new baby,” Nelson-Canfield said. “I struggled between buying gas or food. I went to food pantries, however, I felt humiliated. They asked a lot of personal questions. So, every time I went somewhere, I would have to tell my story and why I couldn’t provide for me and my child. Many pantries are only open during business hours, which made it impossible for me to go.”

Christina Nelson-Canfield has a little free pantry outside her home in downtown Greenwood. (Photo by Neal Smith)

Nelson-Canfield met Waugh Dahl a few years before the first pantry was started; she watched her start everything from the ground up. Nelson-Canfield reached out to Waugh Dahl because she knew the pantry was going be a great success. However, Waugh Dahl was only in Franklin. “I live in a home that has been in my husband’s family for decades and in the heart of downtown Greenwood,” Nelson-Canfield said. “I knew that my house would be a prime location, being close to Isom Elementary school and the Johnson/Marion county line.”

Nelson-Canfield jumped right on board with Wah Dahl’s concept and vision. Nelson-Canfield started her own Michelle’s Little Free Pantry in June. “I feel as though all of my life experiences have led me to this opportunity,” Nelson-Canfield said. “I know that helping the community is something I have always wanted to do in one way or another. I am proud to work with Michelle and bring a light to food insecurity. We understand it because we have both lived it. She is now my soul sister.”

Michelle Waugh Dahl, for her efforts to serve others while bringing her community together around a movement of compassion, was named Community Hero of the Month for August 2019.

For more information, visit Michelle’s Little Pantry on Facebook.