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Guelph's Little Free Pantry encourages people to take what they need

'If you're struggling, there's a little option to help take a little bit of the pressure off'
20210922 519 little free pantry AD
Teresa Oussoren, far right, poses with her husband and their kids with the 519 free little pantry on their property in Guelph.

It looks like a little library, but the contents inside the 519 little free pantry on Whitelaw Road are non-perishable food items, toiletries and more.

“It’s a really cool initiative that I'm happy to be a part of,” said Krista Godinho, a sponsor for the pantry from the 519 Community Collective Free Pantry Project, "The idea is to make them (non-perishable items) accessible on foot."

"If you're struggling, there's a little option to help take a little bit of the pressure off."

Started within Waterloo Region, these pantries have spread to Fergus, Elora, Breslau and Cambridge. The idea comes from a volunteer-run organization called the 519 Community Collective.

Godinho said she learned about the organization through Facebook and had contributed in the past before deciding to help sponsor the first little free pantry in Guelph with her company, Future Insulation Systems Inc.

"I thought it was a great idea," she said, “It’s something so small thing but it can have a big impact."

How it works is sponsors spend $400 to have a pantry built, hand painted and transported to a host location. This fee also includes stocking the pantry with essentials. A pantry location is chosen based on a resident who volunteers their resident’s private property, and the one in Guelph now sits on the property of Teresa Oussoren.

“I’m excited about it,” said Oussoren, who learned about the project a few months ago and signed up to be a host, “I’m hoping we get more pantries across Guelph.”

When asked why she agreed to host the pantry, Oussoren cites she had an interest in teaching her children about generosity. 

“You can learn generosity at any age."

Oussoren mentions her neighbours are already showing interest in the pantry.

"There's lots of lower income housing within a certain radius from my house with families who are food insecure," said Oussoren, "and I hope as word of mouth spreads, and people walk by, that it goes to those who need it."

Besides keeping shelves stocked and cleaning up litter, Oussoren mentions there aren’t many responsibilities a host has when hosting a 519 little free pantry.

“It's very simple to set up and maintain,” said Oussoren.

Those who are interested in donating to the pantry can drop a donation off at the rubber bin beside the pantry or in a bucket on Oussoren's front porch. If there's space, donations can also be placed within the pantry.

To learn more about the 519 little free pantry project, click here.


Ariel Deutschmann

About the Author: Ariel Deutschmann

Ariel Deutschmann is a feature writer and reporter who covers community events, businesses, social initiatives, human interest stories and more involving Guelph and Wellington County
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