MVG Pantry: Week 2

The MVG Pantry has quickly established itself within the neighbourhood and continues to be a place of connection and conversation, despite being robbed at the start of the week.

If you’ve been following the story of the MVG Pantry, you’ll know our little community pantry was opened on the last weekend in September 2021. The purpose of the pantry was to provide a place for connection as our city endured one of the harshest lockdowns in the world. It’s far exceeded all expectations and has firmly cemented itself as part of the community.

Prior to opening the pantry I researched similar operations through a number of sources online (see: How to Start a Community Pantry) and have continued learning what best suits our situation, making tweaks each day. Particularly when we were robbed, which was very unexpected.

Conversations and Connections

One of the highlights of the week was The Age newspaper running a story on the pantry in their print and online editions. The Age had contacted us the week prior to arrange the interview and photoshoot but we weren’t sure when the story would be published.

Little Frankie and Arlo, who visit the pantry each day joined us in one of Melbourne’s famed near-apocalyptic storms for the photoshoot. Despite being drenched to the bone, the photos came out beautifully, we all had a laugh and created some fun memories.

Feeding the soul: Everybody needs good neighbours, especially in lockdown is available to read for free, online.

The concept of the pantry has evolved completely over the past two weeks, though it remains true to its original purpose of community connection. Initially, the concept was to create a food-based pantry for people to share excess food to avoid waste. Though, the pantry has become what is best described by a conversation I overheard from a toddler with his mum while visiting: “The Shop”.

We have a lot of children in our neighbourhood and the bottom shelf of the pantry has become an engagement and enrichment space for children. Books and craft activities have appeared. They have been taken from the shelf and replaced with balloons, kid-friendly snacks, and toys. Children are visiting hand-in-hand with their parents and grandparents.

Neighbours stand in their front yards on either side of the street and strike up conversations as people make their way to and from the pantry. People pull over their cars to say hello if they see me cleaning the pantry in the morning or restocking it. Notes are left under teatowels. The pantry is emptied and replenished in a continuous cycle of community kindness and is simply a place to facilitate to spark conversations and connections.

In the Pantry

Undeniably the biggest joy is watching how children interact with the pantry.

This week the ‘Make a Flower for Someone You Love’ stole my heart. The original flower and sign were then used to create a stencil that was attached to waste folders from our office to make a flower from. The stencil and cardboard were left for children to take to make their own flowers to keep at home. Or, return to the panty in a vase especially for the purpose.

There have been baked goods with hand-decorated paper bags and lettering. Much-loved toys and books swapped for something else in the pantry.

Beyond contributions made by the kids, which I know is thoughtfully guided by adults, there has been an abundance of citrus, fresh fruit, baking (Rasberry Pop-Tarts, Apricot Slice, Choc Chip Brownies), potted seedlings, fresh flowers, pantry staples, and decorative rocks. Many jars have also been left, which will be repurposed for craft activities for the kids and sterilised to hold food goodies for the pantry.

Pantry Experience

For all the joy we’ve had from the pantry, I was surprised to find we were robbed in broad daylight. By coincidence or misfortune, the day our story was published in The Age, the pantry was stripped bare. Teatowels, containers, bowls, a large bag of donated jars, hand sanitiser, and every piece of food except for a few lollies was stolen. There was no doubt it was a robbery given the person took all our containers, display, and decorative items rather than simply helping themselves to a generous amount of food.

I was a little despondent that this happened in the middle of the day and it left me feeling sad for the whole day. When I went to open the pantry the next morning, the most beautiful bunch of fresh flowers was on top of the pantry, and jars were tucked around the side. This was a happy coincidence and reminded me that the actions of one (or a few), shouldn’t ruin it for the many.

Following this incident, I replaced the tub for the collection of jars with lids and chained it to the fence. Recycled fruit containers and jars are being used instead of bowls, and teatowels are placed on the shelves where fresh produce is placed rather than fruit baskets. Hand sanitiser pump packs are only around a quarter full and topped up as required every few days.

We can’t imagine our street without the pantry now and remain hopeful it will stay in place for a long time to come. Daily updates on pantry supplies are posted on Instagram Stories and Twitter.

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