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New community fridge and pantry launches in affluent Vancouver neighbourhood to combat 'hidden' need

The community experiences food insecurity but is far away from services.

Food insecurity is an issue that is touching every corner of Vancouver. The Greater Vancouver Food Bank, UBC, and Vancouver Food Runners have all expressed a growing need in their communities and struggle to find resources to keep up with demand.

In an effort to alleviate the strain on the Kitsilano neighbourhood, custom home builder and renovator Alair has donated a new community fridge and pantry to the Kitsilano Neighbourhood House.

Following a "Take what you need, leave what you can," approach, the community fridge opens this weekend, just in time for the holidays.

Pantries of this nature are considered mutual aid initiatives managed by volunteers. Neighbours and passing traffic are encouraged to donate food and personal items if they can and the items will provide free essential food and supplies to vulnerable members of the area.

There are two other pantries in the Lower Mainland that have been constructed by Alair. Last holiday season a Community Gift Box was erected at the Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House and in the spring Or Shalom Synagogue got a pantry in East Vancouver.

Food insecurity a dire issue: 'It’s a tough time for many individuals and families'

"It’s clear that food insecurity is becoming an increasingly dire issue in our communities,” says Alair Regional Partner, David Babakaiff in a press release. “With the current economic situation, inflation and the rising cost of food, it’s a tough time for many individuals and families. We love being able to use our skills as builders to help people in this way, especially at this time of year.” 

Food pantries are open 24 hours a day to anyone, no questions asked. Kitsilano Neighbourhood House’s Strategic Development Coordinator, Alicia Smith says the with the pantry "we aim to reach as many demographics as possible with food supports, and to bring awareness to the layers of food insecurity that exist within our own neighbourhood.”

Smith says that much of the neighbourhood's needs remain "hidden" and social stigma prevents people from accessing the already limited support that they may need. "The Westside is often seen as more affluent and asset rich, so most of Vancouver’s resources for food aid are located far away from our community making food aid especially inaccessible not only for those who need it but also for those who wish to support it.”

Pantry Volunteer Mona Grenier echoes Smith and says that the air around the pantries can be tense because there are so many people waiting for donations and there's not always enough food to go around which makes contributions from people who can make all the more essential.

@interruptingchicken This is going to be a new community fridge, available to all 24 hours a day on a “give what you can, take what you need” basis! Courtesy of @AlairHomes604 #mutualaid #helpingothers #fooddonation #newpantry #newbuild #communitypantry #communityfridge #fightfoodinsecurity #wehelpus ♬ Celebration - FASSounds

Watch our 2021 interview with Grenier, who shares her experience of filling community pantries on TikTok as @interruptingchicken