Pay it For­ward Pantry a good (and bad) news story

Amherst food pantry very busy a year af­ter its cre­ation

The Amherst News - - CUMBERLAND COUNTY - BY DAR­RELL COLE dar­[email protected]­st­ Twit­ter: @ADN­dar­rell

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.

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