Gulf Today

‘Village pantry’ provides food to poor virus victims

- Manolo B Jara

MANILA: A concept that utilises the innate goodness of the Filipino to help the poor has taken the country by storm amid the COVID- 19 pandemic that let millions jobless and unable especially to provide adequate food for their families.

Called “community” or “village pantry,” it operates on the principle espoused by young businesswo­man Ana Patricia Non in Filipino but translated into English thus: “Give whatever you can, take only what you need.”

Non, 26, firmed up the concept by buying a bamboo cart and initially filled it with some grocery items and parked it in front of her furniture shop in a “barangay” (village) in suburban Quezon City, Manila. As she put it, the idea is simple enough.

People drop off whatever food they could donate — fresh vegetables, sweet potatoes, canned goods and similar items — to be picked up by people for free but no one should get more than what they need.

But more than that, Non pointed out that many of the supporters are not from rich households as she said: “It goes beyond the mainstream and elitist notion that in donation campaigns. Only the rich provide for the poor.” She cited as examples in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the country’s biggest circulatio­n daily, the case of a farmer who donated a sack of potatoes from as far as Tarlac province in Central Luzon.

Another example Non cited was the case of a tricycle driver who volunteere­d to help repack donated rice. As she put it herself, “the community pantry is not for charity but mutual aid.”

Non posted what she did on social media and immediatel­y received remarkable responses and praises, highlighte­d by the establishm­ent of similar pantries not only in Metro Manila but also in provinces in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

According to sociologis­t Athena Charanne Presto, the concept is the ordinary citizen’s way of taking action in the face of crisis. “Community pantries can be seen as acts against three things: first, against a government that fails to adequately address citizens’s needs; second, against a bias and discrimina­tory view of the poor as selfish; and third, against aid initiative­s from institutio­ns that are difficult to trust,” she explained.

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