Community Pantry: The Modern Noah’s Ark of Humanity
April 22, 2021
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In a time when you can witness stomachs rumbling, knees wobbling, lips drying, and hearts aching from the souls of the underprivileged who are barely living and in a time when self-preservation is an essential mean to survive, who would have thought that it will come to a point where unsung heroes will be standing up in solidarity for their brethren? The Community Pantry, which is an initiative of solidarity whereby those severely affected by the pandemic can get fresh food supplies for free, has sent ripples of hope and generosity to the communities in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Starting with only one community serving a few supplies of food and medicine on a makeshift bamboo table in Maginhawa, the Community Pantry is now becoming a Noah’s Ark of Humanity.
Community Pantry: Humanity amidst Pandemic
As our country continues its indefatigable battle against the raging global pandemic, the Community Pantry has given more than just basic help for the Filipinos to get through the day. It added another lifeline because it salvages those who are drowning from severe hunger, thirst, sickness, pain, poverty, and hopelessness.
It carries its only principle of give what you can, get what you need. In Filipino language, “magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan.” Thus, the Community Pantry operates on trust system. It is a good result of altruism, compassion, and solidarity. Furthermore, it is a mutual aid that sets apart from charity. It is because these pantries establish a collective consciousness of cooperation in reaching out to one another. Hence, community pantries serve as a reminder that we can rely on each other, especially in times of crisis.
Community Pantries are makeshift public pantries that serve food (i.e. eggs, canned goods, instant noodles, rice, vegetables, fruits, etc) and other essential items (i.e. face masks, face shield, sanitizers, alcohol, etc.) for free to those who need it. In most pantries, supplies were replenished with the help of the common and prominent people alike.
The Purveyor of Hope: Steward of Humanity
Ana Patricia Non
When everything seems hopeless, a steward courageously went towards the frontlines. A steward who lead a revolutionary change in the lives of the struggling Filipinos. Thanks to a woman, millennial, and furniture designer who ignited the spark of humanity one’s again.
Ms. Ana Patricia Non is the one behind the community pantry initiative that started in Maginhawa, Quezon City. Using a small bamboo cart, she placed her readily available supplies of vegetables, canned goods, rice, vitamins, and other essentials. People who were left vulnerable from the pandemic can have these goods in the pantry for free. This is very helpful especially to those who depend their necessities from the day’s income,
Not long after, this initiative went viral and sent ripples to the other communities across the country. This kindness cart has spread like wild mushrooms. Indeed, an initiative worth replicating.
The Beneficiaries of the Community Pantry
In a Facebook post by Santa Rosa Laguna Community Pantries page, one senior citizen who is called as Tatay came to the pantry and asked if he could get some goods. He was shy at first since he is not a resident of Santa Rosa Homes. They were surprised to see that Tatay only got 2 eggs, 1 eggplant, and 1 bittergourd despite their persistence to permit Tatay to take more goods from the pantry. What Tatay said made everyone’s heart melt. He said that he does not mind if he only has a few goods at hand in order for the goods to reach out to more people. Although he himself needed enough goods to survive for more than just a day, still Tatay is selfless enough to think about his neighbors’ needs.
In addition, there were stories of a street sweeper, a commoner, and a homeless man who only take goods based on what they needed. For example, getting only an orange or two, or even just a bottle of water. Thankfully, this pandemic molded our society to become better in the face of affliction,
The Humanity in the Community Pantry
The community pantry has reinforced the culture of trust and giving amongst the Filipino community. Until this day, there are still unsung heroes who possess a golden heart and altruistic attitude. Most of these unsung heroes actually have less in life yet their hearts are gold.
On the other hand, the community pantries are not an understatement of a person’s worth. This food sharing initiative does not imply that those who give are more dignified over the other. It is because giving does not come from prestige. In fact, not all who have donated in the community pantries are living with a silver spoon. Some of them give not because they have more rather, they are inspired to do so.
For example, in a Facebook post by the Integrated Center for the Young (ICY), Manong Romeo extended a generous hand by giving PHP 46.00 in small bills and some loose change. Manong Romeo sold some metal scraps and gave the money he raised from those metal scraps to ICY’s Community Pantry. He was regarded as a true and genuine hero for his invaluable generosity.
A philanthropist group in Barangay Panamitan, Kawit, Cavite, namely Project Starfish, has shared their story on how generous Kuya Nelson, who is a soya milk or taho vendor, in extending help to their community pantry.
Seeing that they still have PHP 250.00 left from their grocery haul to replenish the pantry, Project Starfish has decided to spend the remaining money by giving free breakfast to the community. Subsequently, they were able to treat the neighborhood with 40 cups of warm taho in the morning. The people who have received their free taho can’t help hiding their priceless jovial faces. For this reason, Kuya Nelson voluntarily added more taho cups on the pantry table despite Project Starfish Team’s insistence on paying for the additional cups.
Ergo, a perfect way to start your morning with kindness.
She also went viral on Facebook because of her philanthropic act. Her inspiring story began when she asked the organizer if she could get goods from the community pantry. Subsequently, the organizer affirmed that she could get the goods according to what she needed. Then, Nanay Thelma got herself some rice, 3 pcs. of eggs, one apple, one instant noodle, some dried fish and vegetables.
Her generous heart reflected after she got what she needed. She placed her bitso bitso (a rice cake from Ilocos) in the table pantry so others can have it. According to Nanay Thelma, she willingly gave the bitso bitso that was meant to be sold for that day. She said that she already has the food that she needed to survive the day. In this way, she was glad to share in her simplest means to other people.
Another inspiring story was posted in Bayan Patrollers page about a 43-year-old ice cream vendor whose name is Tatay Elmer Leal.
He selflessly gave ice cream for free beside the community pantry in Barangay 136, Pasay City. Moreover, Tatay Elmer was very happy knowing that he could also help even in his simplest means. Based on Tatay Elmer’s account, he was able to give free ice cream approximately to 200 people. The people surely enjoyed the free ice cream that has ube, cookies and cream, and mango flavors in it.
What a big heart they have for their neighbors! Indeed, those who have less actually have more.
Other Community Sharing Initiatives
Toy Community Pantry
Besides the usual essential goods in a community pantry, there were also other variations of this kindness cart.
According to Cielo Gonzales of Bayan Mo, Ipatrol Mo, a resident in Barangay Kapasigan, Pasig City, whose name is Arlan Kortez, has set up a toy community pantry to boost the mental health of those who need it. Arlan said that this is his alternative for helping Filipinos since he does not have enough budget to sustain a food pantry. The pandemic has halted toy events so he thought of just giving it to those who actually need it, especially to children.
Cat and Dog Pawntry
During these times of uncertainties, it cannot be denied that the most vulnerable of all are the stray cats and dogs who were left behind. For this reason, Avien Rosete initiated an Animal Paw-ntry in Makati to give free food and water to stray cats and dogs. According to her, these furbabies are also part of the community. They also needed some help and attention.
Zero-Waste Community Pantry
There are also pantries who were able to take consider of the environment. In this regard, a community pantry along St. Therese Street in Barangay Cupang, Antipolo City went viral upon uploading on Facebook by JR Papel.
A Zero-Waste Community Pantry establishes the concept of conservation by promoting the use of recyclable bags and bottles by vying away from single use plastics. Therefore, the beneficiaries of their community pantry need to bring their own eco bags as they line up to get the essential supplies. Interestingly, there were also glass container jars for the condiments.
Christian Community Pantries
Apart from the civic communities, the church is also starting to become part of this food sharing initiative. An ‘agape’ as they usually call it in order to help the struggling brothers and sisters in Christ.
In Cubao, for instance, the Nativity of the Lord Parish opened their own community pantry last April 21st. They said that the Maginhawa Community Pantry has inspired them to do so.
In addition, the nuns from St. Scholastica’s College in Manila has initiated their own community pantry in front of the school gate to help the Filipinos who are in need.
Who does not love coffee?
This invigorating and revitalizing drink has made its way to reach out the countrymen. Mark Aleph Maceres who is a bonafide coffee lover has set up his own coffee pantry in Barangay Santo Cristo, Tabaco City, Albay.
In his pantry, he gives coffee for free using the local cocoa beans from Kalinga, Benguet, Sagada, and the like. Well, he took this initiative out of passion for brewing coffee.
International Community Pantry
Did you know that Filipinos are already building their legacy in the international eyes?
In a news post from GMA News, it can be seen that there is already a community pantry going on in Timor-Leste. It is the Bairro Farrol’s Community Pantry.
It was the Philippine Vice Consul Laser Sumagsay who started this kindness cart in Timor-Leste together with the help of his Timorese friends and diplomats. He asserted that the country will adopt and replicate the spirit of solidarity of the Filipino people.
Above all, Vice Consul Sumagsay believes that he is making the most in serving a nation which is less developed, but whose people have more in terms of spirit.
These community pantries have proven that when a society operates on trust and solidarity, no one will be left behind even during a crisis. Our brains were wired for a very long time that extreme crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic will eventually lead us back to becoming barbaric. Little did we know that during the times of great need is when you will see the true form of humanity.
How to Start your First Community Pantry?
Were you inspired with the stories of our unsung heroes? Why not start having a food pantry in your own community? You can establish a pantry beyond food essentials. Use what you have in creating more Noah’s Ark for our brethren.
Here are the simple steps you can do as you start your very first community pantry:
1. Gather Resources
As you plan your kindness cart, it will be fun to invite your friends, loved ones, and neighbors to join in this initiative. In this way, you will be able to gather resources and enough network to sustain your community pantry.
Once you have the food or other essentials at your disposal, find a large table or even boxes that you can use as containers for the food. Do not forget to install an umbrella, too, so that the food won’t spoil easily under the sun.
Lastly, do not forget to hang a signage that will tell people that this is a free pantry for all with the golden principle “give what you can, get what you need.”
2. Find a Common Location
The very essence of community pantries is to help those who are in need. In this way, make sure that you will be setting up in a location where people can easily see it. In other words, set up in a common location where people pass by more often.
3. Tell your Neighbors
Now, that you have setup all the resources in a common location. It is now time to tell your neighbors about it. In this way, the people who live far from the location will be able to know this good news.
4. Share with a Genuine Heart
Most importantly, always remember that the primary reason for doing this is to help and share what you can. Hence, this is a pure kindness initiative operating on trust and solidarity.
You can set up a COHO pantry as a way to help the security guards, the maintenance staff, the garbage collectors, and the like in making their day satisfied with a free meal. This can also be a way to express your fervent gratitude to the people who are making your home peaceful and worth living. Consequently, you will be able to inspire your neighbors to do the same or they can even replicate it outside the COHO community.