The Little Pantry is getting bare and with winter on its way, that’s not a heart-warming story.
Shannon Wood, who runs The Little Pantry at Woden Community Service (WCS), says the emergency food service is seeing increased demand for non-perishable and personal items.
“We rely entirely on donations of food and cash from the local community,” says Shannon, Woden Community Service Intake and Administration Coordinator. “Donations used to last us a month, but now the pantry is regularly bare in a week-and-a-half. We need community help to stock up, especially in colder months when demand rises.”
Shannon established The Little Pantry in 2014 as a safe place to help members of the Woden community who truly struggle. Emergency non-perishable food supplies and personal items are provided with “no questions asked”.
“We usually help up to 90 people a month, with the coldest months the busiest,” says Shannon. “In May 2018 we peaked at 135 visitors for that month alone. While most live in Woden, some are now travelling from as far as Gungahlin and Tuggeranong.”
The Little Pantry can only take non-perishable items, like pasta, rice, cereals, pasta sauces, tinned fruits and vegetables, tinned tuna, soups and meats, long-life milk, coffee and tea. Personal items needed include toothbrushes, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, deodorant and soap.
Shannon says The Little Pantry is an important service, often providing the only decent food some community members get in a fortnight. For others, it’s a badly needed “top up” of groceries, making sure the kids are well fed. For single parents of young families, it can be their only way of getting baby nappies and wipes.
Until The Little Pantry opened, Shannon says there was a lack of food hubs in the Woden area.
“If people needed emergency relief, it was a bus trip away which isn’t manageable for many,” says Shannon. “We started to have more and more people visiting us to ask for bus tickets so they could travel to get food and supplies. We decided it was important to have a service in the heart of this community.”
While food and personal items are the main focus, Shannon says The Little Pantry is valuable in other ways. It can, for example, be a link to other vital community services.
“I noticed one woman coming to us over a long period and each time she came we would have a chat,” says Shannon. “I learned a bit more about her every time and eventually painted a picture of the other WCS services she could benefit from. I was able to refer her to counselling services and networking groups.”
On another occasion, Shannon met a mum escaping domestic violence. “We listened to her story and referred her to other support in our organisation too,” she says.
Members of the community needing help can visit WCS Thursdays from 9:30 am to 1 pm. Outside these regular hours they can pop by any weekday for emergency packs.
To replenish supplies, WCS volunteers run a stall at Westfield Woden on the first Saturday of each month. It’s a collection point for donations and people shopping in the mall can donate after they’ve done their shopping. “We encourage people to add an extra item or two to their cart and drop it off on their way out to the car,” says Shannon.
The Little Pantry is supported by the combined Lyons Churches, including St Albans Anglican Church and Immanuel Lutheran Church, which make regular donations throughout the year. Shannon says workplaces can help by setting up collection boxes and organising for a WCS volunteer to collect them. Or they can deliver donations to WCS, 26 Corinna Street, Woden, during office hours.
For other ideas on how to help, call WCS on 6282 2644.