Pantry meets a need in the community

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From left) BestStart Elles Road early childhood education centre manager Nichola McIntosh, head teacher and assistant manager Melissa Johnstone and Healthy Families Invercargill lead systems innovator Stella O’Connor.

‘TAKE what you need, Donate what you can’ is the sign on the BestStart Elles Road early childhood education gate in South City.

Set up last month, the Community Pantry had already proved popular, centre head teacher and assistant manager Melissa Johnstone said.

Centre manager Nichola McIntosh said the idea to set up a pantry for people to donate fresh or packaged food, as well as everyday items, such as hygiene products, came about after she ‘‘noticed a need in the community’’.

The items were left on specially designed shelving outside the centre near the gate for those in need to access.

On her regular walks around South Invercargill, and talking to various business owners, she became aware of homeless people sleeping outside some of the shops, which got her thinking.

Together with Healthy Families Invercargill, a multi-tiered outdoor pantry at the centre on Elles Rd, opposite Russell Square Park was established.

Healthy Families Invercargill lead systems innovator Stella O’Connor said the seeds of the idea were germinated last year during a Kai Social Challenge Design, which Healthy Families Invercargill hosted with various community and stakeholders, to understand the needs of whanau and people.

She had seen a similar setup at another childcare centre, which also had a garden and grew vegetables.

‘‘So, when we were here at Elles Rd talking about gardening, the conversation began about setting up a community pantry.’’

The Elles Rd pantry had been made from scrap wood by Invercargill Prison inmates who designed the shelving to suit the site.

‘‘Invercargill Prison were really happy to be involved with the community project,’’ Mrs O’Connor said.

As well as helping others, the pantry might also encourage the children at the centre when planting, weeding and growing vegetables at the centre, and at the nearby South Alive community garden, Mrs Johnstone said.

Mrs O’Connor said the Glengarry Kindergarten had set up another community pantry in Glengarry near Habitat For Humanity and it was hoped there would be more opportunities to create more community pantries in areas in need around the city.

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