The free little pantry in Edmonds would be similar to Nick's Nook in North Delta. (Magical Hearts/ Facebook)

Edmonds community members working together to create free little pantry

It would bring accessible free food and hygiene items to the Edmonds neighbourhood.

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November 5, 2021 | 5:00 am

A free little pantry could be popping up in the Edmonds neighbourhood thanks to the work of local community members.

Volunteers and members of the United Way’s “Hi Neighbour” initiative in the Edmonds community are working together on the little pantry project, which would provide free food and hygiene items for folks to take whenever needed.

Mary Blanca is a community builder with the Edmond’s Hi Neighbour group. Every neighbourhood group is made up of “community champions” who take on community projects which are funded by the United Way’s Local Love Fund. Blanca works as a point-person with her fellow members to execute various projects.

“This can mean helping community members to run their initiative, identifying volunteers to support it, or navigating the City of Burnaby to ensure the correct permits are applied for. Mary works hand-in-hand with community members to identify, support and deliver community initiatives. Hi Neighbour helps harness community strengths, provide tools and resources to identify the gaps and support mobilization,” Kim Winchell, senior director of community impact and investment of United Way, told Burnaby Beacon via email.

Currently, there are 12 Hi Neighbour groups across Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley.

Blanca explained the project was inspired by a similar little pantry that was set up in North Delta, and an Edmond’s community champion wanted to take it on. Unfortunately, they ended up moving to another community, but Blanca and her group of volunteers decided to continue the work to make it happen.

Now Blanca and her team are in the initial planning stages of creating the Edmonds pantry.

The first step is to find the proper location.

“This is the big challenge part … of the project,” Blanca told the Beacon. “We are in that step at this moment, and we are just asking [and] looking for places.”

Blanca said she’s received some suggestions of where the pantry should go, including somewhere outside the Edmonds Community Centre or near Salisbury St.

Blanca explained that it would be easier to have the pantry set up on private property because a public placement would mean the group will need to get permission from the city.

“The first step is to find the place. The second step is to build the little pantry. … And later is to have the support of volunteers that we can organize together and to check the food, and we’ll need some donations for food and hygiene items in the future,” she said.

Blanca also emphasized how the pandemic highlighted the need for more accessible food security projects in the neighbourhood.

“We realized that many people were lacking food. We have some services like the Food Hub that we have from the United Way in the area, … [but] we know people who sometimes need food immediately or even hygiene products,” she said.

Once set up, the little pantry will be an addition to two community fridges in Burnaby. Earlier this summer, the Burnaby Primary Care Network set up a community fridge at 4750 Imperial St. A second one was recently added to the SFU campus on Burnaby Mountain. 

Currently, the Edmond’s group is looking for more suggestions of where to place the pantry. Anyone who would like to provide feedback can do so on their Facebook page.

Those who are interested in volunteering with the group can connect with Mary or sign up at ivolunteer.ca as part of our United Way British Columbia iVolunteer program.

Simran Singh

Managing Editor at Burnaby Beacon

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