The garden shed recently installed beside the front door of Zion Lutheran Church isn't being used to grow plants - it's being used to feed the community.
Inside are rows of nonperishable food, like pasta, cereal, coffee and crackers, as well as paper goods and hygiene items. A trio of plush animals rested among them Tuesday, March 19.
Superior High School senior Anthony Anderson set up the freestanding food shelf at 2022 E. Second St. for his senior project.
"I thought it would be a good idea to help out the needy and help the community and get involved with some community service," said Anderson, 18.
The food shelf operates on the same principle as a Little Free Library. Anyone can take items if they need them and anyone can donate. It's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"It's not just for food," Anderson said. "You can put clothing and toys and hygiene projects in it, too."
He's been planning the project for months and seeking the right box to use. Anderson raised money for the food shelf with a root beer float stand during the church's annual meatball dinner in October.
Since the food shelf launched two weeks ago, it's been filling steadily.
"It's exciting to see that people are already starting to contribute," Anderson said as he looked through the food shelf Tuesday. "It's kind of surprising how much stuff is in here already."
Victor St. George, pastor of Zion Lutheran, wasn't surprised.
"That's kind of what happens when you start doing things like this. People see it and they really want to participate," he said. "So it's something that not only does the church offer a mission to the world, but it gives other people the opportunity to participate in that also. Because it's open for anybody who wants to bring something."
The church did not have a food shelf prior to this. St. George said the council of Anderson's church thought the project was a great idea and a wonderful way to serve the neighborhood.
"Reaching out to them and trying to find a way to alleviate the stress that some people are under due to lack of funds or lack of food, this is just a great thing," St. George said. "We were just overjoyed that he was willing to do it and wanted to do it."
Zion Lutheran Church is focused on engaging with the community, Anderson said. Its missions group provides thousands of mittens a year to local schools and agencies and it helps support the nearby Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse. Ten percent of every fundraiser the church holds goes to community outreach efforts, St. George said.
"It's not all about us," Anderson said. "We like to help everybody around here."
It's been exciting to see items accumulate, but the teen said he'd like to see the food start moving off the shelves and into homes where it can help people.