Riverview Community Food Pantry aims to help feed those in need

A brightly colored cupboard in Riverview is now filled with everything from cereal to soup as a new resource for those struggling to put food on the table.

The Community Pantry is a project started by a team of New Brunswick Community College students, who partnered with the city to choose a location and set it up.

Student Melissa Scribner suggested the idea to her community service orientation class after seeing a video on TikTok of a similar food pantry in British Columbia. His classmates were on board with the initiative.

“Food insecurity right now is a huge problem,” she said. “It’s happening everywhere – we may not know that.”

Community refrigerators and pantries have taken off across Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic, to help neighbors struggling to cope with the rising cost of living.

Prices in grocery stores rose more than 7% last year, an increase in the number of people seeking help in New Brunswick food banks.

The goal of the Riverview Food Pantry is to provide a place where people in need can come and get the food they need at any time, without judgement. It is located outside of Webb Vance Memorial Field on Whitepine Road, easily accessible by public transit, car, or on foot.

WATCH / Community food pantry makes its way to Riverview

Riverview Community Food Pantry helps those in need

New Brunswick Community College students have created a cupboard where people can bring in what they need or donate dry food and personal hygiene products. 2:13

Since the food pantry was installed on April 14, it has quickly filled with donations of canned and packaged goods from community members.

Scribner said the pantry was also stocked with other items people might need, including baby products, pet food and personal hygiene products. She hopes the concept will inspire other community groups to create similar pantries.

“A lot of people right now are probably struggling and if they can take a few extra bucks to put in their gas tank to get to work, [rather] than spending it on that bottle of formula or that bag of diapers, so why not have an extra $20 to go to work,” she said.

The team behind the pantry is a group of students from the Social Services Community Worker program. They built up a stock of food for the project and signed teams to replenish it regularly during the summer.

The Community Food Pantry is located on Whitepine Road in Riverview. (Alexander Silberman/CBC)

Kerece Douglas, an international student from Jamaica, said the idea was something she would like to see in her home country.

“Because of where it is, it’s so anonymous. You don’t feel the pressure to hide because some people are sensitive about wanting to take food in front of people, even going to the food bank,” she said.

Instructor Jodi Copeland Ayles said the pantry location is discreet and there are no barriers to access, such as transportation or the need to complete paperwork at a food bank .

“With prices going up and things costing so much more, including rent and gas, we really felt that at the end of the week you might not have anything in your closet,” she said. “It’s a place where you won’t need to be hungry, you can always come and get what you need.”

Instructor Jodi Copeland Ayles said the community pantry helps break down barriers for those in need of food. (Alexander Silberman/CBC)

Copeland Ayles said she monitors items taken and used, with pasta, cereal and canned goods frequently picked up. Two groups have already reached out to ask questions about creating their own pantries.

“We’re really thrilled that the community seems to have embraced the pantry because every time we come it’s overflowing with so many donations,” she said.

As students restocked the pantry last week, Sheldon MacLeod stopped by to donate boxes of mac and cheese. The president of the Albert County Food Bank in Riverview said it would help bridge a gap between existing supports.

“This will fill a void for a family who may only need two more days before their food bank appointment,” he said.

Norma P. Rex