Free Food Pantry Expands Reach - 405 Magazine

Free Food Pantry Expands Reach

Diner partnership helps second food pantry open in Midtown


A free food pantry, allowing people to leave a donation or take what they need, has expanded its reach to Midtown to boost an already blossoming community effort. 

Public health worker and nutritionist Aley Cristelli opened her first hand-crafted Pine Pantry in the Plaza District, nestled between Aurora and Sasquatch Shaved Ice, in April.

Breakfast hotspot Sunnyside Diner reached out to Cristelli after identifying a need in the Midtown area through its Sunnyside Street Team, which hands out necessity bags to the homeless.

A second pantry, made possible through the diner’s partnership with Cristelli, now sits outside the diner near the corner of 6th and Classen.

“This was right in line with our mission to give back to our community,” explains Aly Branstetter, general manager of Sunnyside Diner. “The pantry not only offers items for those in need; it is an easy and convenient opportunity for our guests to give back to the community. Everyone wins.”

Cristelli said the Plaza Pine Pantry is well used, and she’s even getting feedback from families that have visited it, including those who relied on it after losing their jobs and are now back on their feet, and giving back to the pantry.

“It truly has brought out the best in the community,” says Cristelli. “I spoke with a family last week that came up to the pantry (in the Plaza) and were surprised to see a bag of Christmas ornaments. They planned to take them home and decorate their tree that evening.”

Businesses in the Plaza District have offered discounts when people donate, and the December LIVE on the Plaza event benefited the pantry – with one donor offering 300 cans of vegetables for the cause.

Cristelli admits it’s a lot of effort, given the local need outweighs the donations, but “it’s worth it.” She’s working hard to spread the word, and has a donation box she plans to put in businesses and churches so people don’t have to drive to a location.

“Aley is an amazing human and we are lucky to have people like her in OKC. Together, we can make a difference, even if it’s one canned good at a time,” says Branstetter.


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