Copper Pot Cooking Studio celebrated its fifth anniversary in March with the installation of a little cookbook library and micropantry, custom-built for them by Girl Scout Troop #6318. Denise Perry, who owns the cooking studio on the corner of MacArthur and Laurel Avenue in Springfield, said that the project had been on her mind for some time. "I've always wanted a little cookbook library out in front of the shop, so I approached Alana Reynolds initially because of her work with Slow Food Springfield. Then the pandemic hit and all these micropantries started popping up it seemed like it'd be a perfect opportunity to integrate the two together."
"When Denise approached me I realized that this would be an ideal project for the Girl Scout troop that I co-lead,'' explained Reynolds. "The girls in our troop are all incredibly skilled and creative and since they are Juniors now they were able to work towards a bronze award, which is the highest honor that can be received as Junior Girl Scouts. The bronze award is all about giving back to your community and working as a team, so this was a perfect project for them to take on." The girls worked together to create a budget and building plan and used recycled materials to create the sturdy little pantry, complete with solar-powered twinkle lights. Together with co-leader Bob Schmidt, who supervised the build, the troop used money from cookie sales to purchase used cabinets and materials from the Habitat for Humanity Resale Store. "I like painting it the best," exclaimed troop member Maize Peebles. That sentiment was echoed by her fellow troop members, who said they helped to fill the pantry with some of their favorite foods like pasta, canned mandarin oranges and tomato soup.
Micropantries have popped up throughout the Springfield community in recent years and have taken on an increased importance in the wake of the the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when food banks all over the country are stretched thin, community-supported pantries like the one built by Troop #6318 have become a vital resource for struggling families. In addition to stocking the Copper Pot micropantry with cookbooks and nutritious shelf-stable foods, Reynolds pointed out that micropantries can also be a source for much needed non-food items like personal hygiene products, shampoo and diapers, which are not covered by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). "As much as I'd love to see fresh produce in the Copper Pot micropantry, I always get a bit worried about food safety," Reynolds said. "In the coming months we may try to organize some fresh produce pick-ups so that folks can get access to foods that are nutritious and still safe. For now we're planning to have the girls help maintain the pantry over the long term, and I hope it's something they continue even after they've graduated from scouting," Reynolds said.
For her part, Perry says she couldn't be more thrilled with the installation. "Cookbooks have always been special to me and I'm so happy to be able to share them with the community. I remember the first cookbooks I ever got – the Silver Palate and the Moosewood Cookbook – and I still use them to this day. No matter how many recipes there are floating around on the internet, nothing replaces finding a really good cookbook, especially one that has already been much-loved."
A listing of Springfield-area micropantries is available on the Springfield Families Helping Families Facebook page. Needed items include whole-grain pasta, rice, grits, canned fruit and vegetables, canned meats and toiletries.