Prairie Post (West Edition)

Youth Do Crew unveil Coaldale’s Free Little Pantry at FCSS Hub

- BY ERIKA MATHIEU

The Town of Coaldale has added one more resource to the community to help foster reciprocit­y, support, and reduce the stigma surroundin­g food insecurity.

Youth DO Crew members had previously submitted a proposal to Coaldale council earlier this year to have a small food pantry structure installed at the FCSS Hub at 2107 13th Street in Coaldale. Council voted to approve the project and waive the fees for the developmen­t permit. Inspired by the little library initiative­s, similar food pantry projects have been popping up around the region. In June, Junior Do Crew members in Nobleford held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their own which they named the “Pantry of Hope”.

Coaldale’s newest resource is not intended to replace longer-term supports such as the food bank, but rather, will offer residents an added layer of security, or a place to pick up a forgotten ingredient. FCSS’s Kaitlyn Weaver works as an outreach services supervisor at the Barons-Eureka-Warner FCSS. She said this kind of resource serves the greater community.

“You don’t have to be low income to utilize it,” she said. “It reduces the stigma of those experienci­ng food insecurity by dissolving the traditiona­l client-service provider boundary that is central to the structure of other emergency food supports like food banks. Whether giving or taking everyone approaches the pantry the same way, mediating the shame that accompanie­s need.”

The project developmen­t was made possible thanks to the Town of Coaldale, the Fontaine family, and FCSS and funding was provided through support from the Coaldale Community Wellness Associatio­n, and the Government of Canada, which funds the youth program.

The project came to fruition after the previous Youth Do Crew coordinato­r, Shannon Rawluk and the Coaldale Do Crew identified that additional options for barrier-free food supports would benefit the community in Coaldale.

Youth Do Crew coordinato­r, Jillian Boyd explained, “little free pantries can also help to reduce the stigma and shame for those experienci­ng food. Insecurity by eliminatin­g the traditiona­l client-service provider boundaries that we typically see in other emergency food supports.

Everyone approaches the pantry the same way regardless of whether they’re giving or taking.”

“Little free pantries are for everyone not just for those not able to meet everyday food and personal needs,” said Mayor Jack Van Rijn.

In an effort to reduce the stigma, the pantry is intended to serve anyone who needs it, not just people experienci­ng food insecurity: from a student needing a quick snack on the way home from school, to a home cook short an ingredient.

To encourage residents to “take what they need, and leave what they can,” the pantry will remain open 24/7 for people to utilize as needed, or to drop off donations as well.

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