A great way my community connects with one another is an online group that started as part of the Buy Nothing Project. For those unfamiliar, a “Buy Nothing” group is where neighbours can share items they would like to gift, ask, or receive for no cost. Items could be clothing or books or even food. This sparked the idea for my project.
In 2018, 1 in 8 Canadian households reported they struggle with food insecurity. That is about 4.4 million people, which includes more than 1.2 million children, living in food insecure households.
Food insecurity is the inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints. Food insecurity can look like limited food selection (marginal food insecurity), compromising the quality/quantity of food (moderate food insecurity), or missing meals (severe food insecurity) all due to a lack of money for food. There is a particularly strong relationship between food insecurity and poor mental health, where the risk of experiencing depression, anxiety disorder, mood disorders, or suicidal thoughts increases with the severity of food insecurity.
To address this, I created a shared pantry in my neighbourhood. Located in the alley behind 57th and Inverness, I installed a wood pantry where neighbours can drop off or collect non-perishable donations. I wanted to create a safe space for my community members to access free food 24/7/365 without judgement.
In a few short hours, the pantry was a success! I posted on social media and received an overwhelming amount of donations. Since its installation, the pantry has cycled continuously from full to empty to full. Over the cold winter, the pantry became a space where folks could leave not only food, but also personal hygiene products, pads/tampons, masks, and hand warmers.
A fairly simple idea, but I have already felt the immense impact it has had on my neighbourhood. Our community pantry has become a conversation starter, a dot on the map for folks to stop by, and a project that is maintained by many wonderful volunteers around the area. What started as a way to share food, turned into a local gem. Thank you, Neighbourhood Small Grants!