Maven to Know: Michelle Waugh Dahl

The founder of Michelle's Little Free Pantry shares how one simple idea can change a community.
Michelle Waugh Dahl INDY MAVEN Maven to Know

Michelle Waugh Dahl, Founder, Michelle’s Little Free Pantry

On a cold February day in 2017, Michelle Waugh Dahl put a refurbished wooden cabinet in her front yard in Franklin, stocked it with four cans of food and a roll of toilet paper, and started a Facebook group for Michelle’s Little Free Pantry. It’s “a judgment-free, no-questions-asked, 24-hour-access, nonperishable food pantry,” she explains. Since then, her organization has served 500 families in need of food, clothing, shelter, and other social services. 

“In giving back to my hometown, I found hope, goodness, and healing,” Dahl says. 

Personal life: Dahl, 44, is a mother of five, ranging in age from 6 to 23. Her partner, Mike Hooker, is a board member of Michelle’s Little Free Pantry and her “biggest supporter.” 

Maven superpower: Creating #pantrymagic. 

If I want to do a free pantry in my yard or neighborhood, what do I need to know?  

JUST DO IT. If you have an HOA or landlord, check first. However, it really is as easy as setting up in an area where you are comfortable, and that is easily accessible. The most popular pantry items are canned vegetables, soups, meats, fruit, ready-to-eat/heat-and-serve meals, diapers, baby wipes, and hygiene and menstrual products.

What’S THE LATEST WITH Michelle’s Little Free Pantry? How has it grown? 

We became a 501(c)3 in May. Christina Nelson-Canfield had already joined forces with me, but in June, she answered a calling to open a pantry on the front porch of her old town Greenwood home. We offer emergency grocery assistance. Girl Scout Troop 2805 built a community garden and will build a compost bin for us soon. We have an abundant clothes closet. Because of our caring and active community, we can connect folks. All of these things make what we have coined #pantrymagic.

Who are some local women YOU KNOW THAT we should be following?

Ali Brown (candidate for Indianapolis City-County Council, District 5); Indiana’s Own Dana Black; Kari Rhinehart (If It Was Your Child); Erin Davis (People For A Progressive Franklin; candidate for Franklin City Council At-Large). 

“In giving back to my hometown, I found hope, goodness, and healing.”
Three things you can’t live without? 

Phone, naps, and dental floss. 

Dream country to visit? 

South Korea. I am an adoptee. I have no biological family history. 

You recently bragged on Facebook about your GIF game. What’s your favorite GIF? 

Toddler Demanding Snacks, which you can see here

You’re a mother of five. What’s the worst parenting advice you’ve ever received?

Buy a Diaper Genie. 

Photo: Erin Davis

Amanda Kingsbury has no GIF game whatsoever and she did once own a Diaper Genie.

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[…] Michelle Waugh Dahl: justice hopeful, mom, KAD, #pantrymagic. She is also a member of the Indy Maven editorial board.  […]

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