How to lead a community pantry in your barangay

Do you want to start a community pantry in your barangay?

What started out as a lone initiative in Maginhawa created ripples across the country as several barangays put up their own community pantry or “bodegang bayan” to help Filipinos badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.  (READ: ‘Pagod na ako sa inaction’: How a community pantry rose to fill gaps in gov’t response)

The woman behind the initiative, Ana Patricia Non, set up a bamboo cart with free grocery goods along the popular Maginhawa Street in UP Village on Wednesday, April 14. 

Dubbed the “Maginhawa Community Pantry,” the cart contains rice, vegetables, milk, vitamins, face masks, canned goods, and many other items.

“Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan (Give what you can, take what you need),” the pantry’s sign read, encouraging residents to share their supplies to those more in need.

After her good deed went viral, more donations came pouring in including donated sacks of sweet potatoes from farmers in Paniqui, Tarlac. 

“The fact na nagviral siya, ibig sabihin nandoon 'yung pangangailangan. Hindi lahat may ayuda. Hindi lahat nakakakuha ng sapat na ayuda. So ito malaking bagay siya, ibig sabihin din gutom 'yung mga Pilipino at kailangan nating magkaroon ng action,” Non said.

(The fact that it went viral, it only means that there is a need. Not everyone received help from the government. Not everyone received enough help. So this is a huge effort, it also means that people are hungry and we need to take action.)

Labor group Defend Jobs Philippines also set up its community pantry – the “Matimyas Workers Pantry” – in a bid to not only help pandemic-hit residents but to send their message to the national government to be sensitive and compassionate enough to struggling Filipinos. 

According to Abolisyon, the goal of establishing community pantries is to provide mutual aid and help each other out, not treat others like they are charity cases. 

“We are just offering a hand to members of our community who might need help in these difficult times. We are here to remind each other that we can rely on one another, not that they are helpless without us. After all, we can't really rely on anyone else,” the group said.

Responding to the call for solidarity, this initiative also moved other communities to replicate the act and make their own version of community pantries, like those in Marikina, San Mateo, Bacoor, Valenzuela, Los Baños, Makati, Sampaloc, and other areas of Quezon City.

Inspired to join the movement? Here’s how you can start your own community pantry: 

#1 Staff your pantry

It’s important to find willing and dedicated volunteers. You can ask your inner circle, family, and friends if they want to help or know of anyone interested.

#2 Get the community involved

Aside from building your own circle of support you should also involve the community in this initiative. Start by letting the community know – one way is through social media – about the launch of the initiative, how they can help, what they can do to participate, or how they can encourage others. 

Non said in an interview with Rappler that a community pantry manned by just one to five people can be very exhausting but if the whole community is involved, it can be sustained.

#3 Make an inventory

Those planning to start a community pantry should make a list of the items that community members are willing to donate and what other items are needed. You can sort this out by listing down what’s currently available and what you need, and put them in a working document or a sheet of paper for easy reference. 

#4 Prepare the things you need

Aside from the food that will be given, list down other items you’ll need to prepare for setting up the community pantry like a cart or makeshift shelves, personal protective equipment for community members, placards and signages, and the like. 

#5 Find a spot that has a lot of foot traffic

In an infographic on starting community pantries, Abolisyon and self-publishing press Makò Micro-Press said that it’s important to pick a location that's accessible to the community. 

If you live in a high-traffic area, you can consider setting up a pantry outside your home. 

Once you’ve finalized the spot, inform people of the address so they can send donations or support, and those in need would know where to go. 

#6 Set it up

After making all the preparations, it’s now time to install the community pantry. Put up the goods that are ready for giving, and help one another in arranging, distributing, coordinating donations, refilling, and giving to those in need. 

You can even name your barangay’s own community pantry but more importantly, Non said it’s the community effort that must be highlighted. 

“Community effort din siya. Kung sakaling may mapapadaan, pwede nilang ayusin 'yung pantry. Kung sakaling magdodonate sila, pwedeng i-ready nila 'yung i-do-donate nila para ready to pick up na, ganon. So tulungan talaga tayo,” Non said, taking off from her experience. 

(It's a community effort. A passer-by can fix the pantry. If they're donating, they can prepare their donation so it can just be picked up. So we really help each other.)

#7 Get the word out and encourage others

Place a sign in the pantry to let others know what the initiative is about. You can post about this on social media and invite people from your community to donate and get as needed.

You can also post reminders to observe health protocols and signages encouraging others to only take what they need and to give back what they can to help sustain the community pantry.

You can also share your community pantries and how the public can support the initiative by tagging @MovePH and @rapplerdotcom on Twitter and using the hashtag #CommunityPantry. – Rappler.com