Calgary

Little free pantry in northeast Calgary struggles to meet demand

Margot Baker set up a little free pantry in the front yard of her northeast Calgary home more than a year ago to help those in the community struggling to afford groceries.

Many residents of Abbeydale have a hard time affording groceries, says Margot Baker

Little free pantry needs help 0:40

Margot Baker set up a little free pantry in the front yard of her northeast Calgary home more than a year ago to help those in the community struggling to afford groceries.

The pantry has been so popular, she's struggling to keep up with demand — but the community has pitched in to help her keep it stocked.

Margot Baker says the free pantry in her front yard has seen an increase in use in recent months. She took to social media to appeal for help in restocking it. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"I filled it up, I stocked it, you couldn't put anything else in and that was five days ago. And yesterday, I looked and there was only four things in there. So the need is becoming more and more and more every time," she said.

Baker said many people in Abbeydale are struggling.

"They haven't had a welfare cheque come through, or they can't make their rent."

She said pantry customers range from kids picking up breakfast on the way to school to people coming at night to quietly pick up a few essentials.

She said people initially warned her that the pantry would be used as a grocery store, but she said that isn't happening.

Margot Baker in front of her little free pantry in Abbeydale. Baker funds the pantry herself. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"People come by, they get one or two things … people are shy about it. Food insecurity is something people are very senstive about. So having it there 24/7, it's really making a difference in our community."

Baker is a single mom on a fixed income who's also a full-time student at the University of Calgary working toward her teaching degree. She said it costs about $75 a week to fill.

Margot Baker says the response to a call for help in restocking her little free pantry has been overwhelming. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

She reached out to politicians and local grocery stores and churches for help, but her requests were either turned down or ignored. So, she posted a call for help on social media to keep the pantry stocked — and was overwhelmed by the response.

"It's really wonderful. I have people coming by today with carloads of food," she said, adding that she was up until 3 a.m. the night after she made the post responding to messages offering help.

Some of the most needed items include:

  • Granola bars.
  • Dry pasta.
  • Toothpaste.
  • Deodorant.
  • Feminine hygiene products.
  • Cooking oil.
  • Rice.

The pantry can't accept canned goods as they're not safe to leave outside in Calgary weather.

Baker said she'll now be able to keep the pantry, at 57 Aberdare Road N.E., stocked through the toughest months of the year. She's hoping in future to find a grocery store that will sponsor the pantry.

With files from Dan McGarvey

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