Pay it Forward Pantry a good (and bad) news story
Amherst food pantry very busy a year after its creation
In a perfect world Kim Campbell wouldn’t have to make a daily trip to the Rotary Centennial Park to restock Amherst Pay it Forward Pantry.
Problem is, the pantry is that busy that he and other volunteers are frequently restocking it. And they are being joined by other community members, who have sort of become the keepers of the pantry.
“It’s a good news story and a bad news story all in one,” Campbell said. “It’s good in that it’s busy and is filling a need in the community, but it’s bad in that there’s such a demand for it.”
It has been a year since the blue pantry was placed in the Elmwood Drive park and it has become a community success story.
The pantry was proposed a couple of years ago during a Make it Happen meeting in which community members were invited to a meeting during which they came up with some realistic projects. They were then expected to go out into the community to make it happen.
The person who came up with the idea is anonymous and Campbell has become the spokesperson for the small group of people who set up the pantry in the park on Elmwood Drive and maintain it by ensuring it’s stocked with fresh food as well as personal hygiene products.
Campbell said the group wasn’t sure how the project would be received in the community. It knew there was a demand, but even he is amazed at how great the demand is. Campbell admitted it’s difficult to keep statistics on its use since the pantry is anonymous, but its supporters know it’s busy.
“The way it’s set up is that you never know who’s using it. When you drive by and see someone at the pantry you don’t know if it’s someone getting food from the pantry or putting food in,” Campbell said. “We know there are a lot of people using it.”
The concept of the pantry is for people to take what they need from the pantry and put back what they can.
He said one of the reasons the pantry is popular among those who need it is the anonymity involved and the fact there are no forms to fill out and no questions about income. The Amherst food bank has restrictions on how often people can use its services and users have to provide financial information.
Campbell stressed the pantry is not in competition with the food bank.
There is a corporate supporter which provides fresh food products to the pantry, but for the most part it relies on the generosity of residents.
“One of the things we want to stress is that this pantry is for everyone, not just people in Amherst. We have had people come from around the county both to pick up items and to drop them off,” Campbell said.
He said the community has been a huge supporter of the pantry. An example of that was a recent promotion at the Atlantic Superstore that saw a number of shoppers get free groceries. One of those people took $200 worth of groceries and put it in the pantry.
As well, he said, people and organizations are often dropping food off to him to put in the pantry.
One of the issues the pantry is having is finances. There was a program in which people could go to Maggie’s Place to get a $10 coupon for food items at Highland Market or Simply for Life downtown. Campbell said that program needs financial support if it’s to return.
People can support the pantry financially by contacting Campbell at 902-6644521.