With the support of Victoria Foundation’s Neighbourhood Small Grant, I was able to team up with youth, local businesses and community members to build Duncan’s first free community pantry! A mutual-aid supply pantry with a “take-what-you-need, leave-what-you-can” motto – bolstered by our amazing community partners.

The funding went to purchasing a beautiful wood frame, built and assembled by Vancouver Island University’s construction trades students. Then, over the course of a few weeks, we sourced reclaimed lumber materials, clay, straw and wood chips to create a naturally insulated finish on the frame, led by a local natural builder, Elke Cole. As a community, we gathered together on a weekend to deconstruct pallets, cut wood and sand wood, mix earthen materials and everything onto the frame! Sixteen volunteers showed up that day including Fraser Basin Council Youth and a local musician to grace us with music while we worked. The youth in the group learned new building skills while the elders in the group provided mentorship. By the end of the day, the whole gang was feeling satisfied and full from all the amazing work completed.

With the pantry build complete, we set out to make sure it will be maintained and cared for. While reaching out and promoting the pantry to local residents, we collaborated with Cowichan Green Community, CMHA Outreach and Cowichan Valley Basket Society to help keep the pantry stocked on a regular basis. We also established a volunteer “Drop & Swap” team who are responsible for dropping off pantry items from these places and keep the pantry clean and free of spoiled food.

It is my hope that the community will feel supported and proud of this pantry. It provides an opportunity for people to access food and other resources in a dignified way. Thank you Neighbourhood Small Grants for supporting a small idea and helping it to blossom.

This project included all the aspects important to our group. Food sovereignty, natural building, sustainable community development and lots of love! I am amazed that it came together so beautifully.” – Kelly D’Lugos, FBC youth group participant.

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