Calgary

YYC Free Pantry Project offers 'love' and nourishment to low-income Calgarians

A northeast Calgary community has built an outdoor pantry and stocked it with non-perishable food, toothbrushes and bus tickets.

Small wooden structure stocked with fruit cups, toothbrushes and bus tickets

Little free libraries are popular in Calgary, but now the city's being introduced to little free pantries. 0:46

Originally published November 15. 

Grab a granola bar or drop off a bag of Doritos.

That's the idea behind Calgary's first little free pantry, which popped up on Sunday in front of a tattoo shop in the city's northeast.

Since then, community members have already had to restock the small wooden structure twice with deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, bus tickets and non-perishable food items.

"Things that can be eaten on the fly," said Suzanne Delaine, the owner of Ascending Koi Tattoo on Edmonton Trail.

"Like fruit cups, granola bars and protein shakes for the people in the neighbourhood that maybe don't even have a refrigerator or a place to warm up a can of soup."

It was Delaine's secretary who came up with the idea for the project and rounded up seven community members to help her build the pantry.

"Our goal is to encourage people to fill it, but to perhaps, build their own. They're not very expensive, we built [two of them] in a day. We hope it catches on like wildfire, kind of like the Little Free Libraries," said Marie Ferraro.

She said it cost about $70 to build the structure using new materials, but could be done for less by recycling old wood and the fronts of cupboards.

The concept is already taking off in the United States, but is relatively new to Canada. Ferraro said she was inspired by a friend who built one in her own community in Saskatchewan.

Suzanne Delaine (left) and Marie Ferraro stand in front of their Little Free Pantry in front of Ascending Koi Tattoo on Edmonton Trail in northeast Calgary. (Dalia Thamin/CBC)

Risk of getting raided?

Ferraro realizes the pantry could be used and abused, but is hoping for the best.

"It's a risk that it could get raided or that it could get vandalized, but I think that's just something you can't avoid and I think it is not of great importance, to be honest. We'll just keep restocking it," Ferraro said.

Delaine believes that "good human nature" will prevail and the project will be a success.

"We just see a lot of people in need who are just lovely, beautiful human beings that just need to feel the love, need to feel like someone cares about them … within their neighbourhood. Not some invisible person."

Ferraro said she already has a second pantry built, but is waiting to get the green light to install it in front of a business in Bowness, because the pantries are only allowed to go up on private property.


With files from the CBC's Dalia Thamin and the Calgary Eyeopener