Manitoba

'Why not? We have extra': Community Cupboard provides food in Winnipeg

A community cupboard popped up Fountain Street near Logan Avenue a few days ago, not far from several inner-city missions.

Pantry idea is simple: if you have extra food leave it, if you need it take it

A Community Cupboard popped up Fountain Street near Logan Avenue giving people a place to leave food if they have extra or take food if they are in need. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

A repurposed cabinet atop a pole was the centre of attention in Winnipeg's Centennial neighbourhood Sunday, after a local couple installed a Community Cupboard on Fountain Street near Logan Avenue. 

"I didn't know people would be so interested in giving and I didn't know that so many people would be in need and walking by," said Kelly Hughes, who built the cupboard with his partner Andrea Vaile.

The idea is simple — if you have extra food or toiletries you leave it, and if you need it you take it.

Kelly Hughes built the community pantry out of an old cupboard. He said he just wanted to make a little difference in his neighbourhood. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

The couple saw the community pantry idea online in the United States and elsewhere in Canada and thought it would be a good fit for their neighbourhood. Their house is attached to a former church and Hughes said that means they often have people stopping by asking for food.

"We were just trying to think of a way to give back, a very kind of grassroots, easy way to actually just directly help people," he said.

"I think it's great. I think we should really be sharing when we can."

Kelly Hughes (left) helps a man who stopped by to drop off donations find room in the quickly filling pantry. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

Vaile posted the community cupboard project on Facebook and soon streams of people stopped by to drop off non-perishables, snacks and hygiene products.

Lindsay Brown lives nearby in an apartment and said she thought it was a wonderful idea that would benefit the community.

"I was hearing that things were coming and going really quickly and it's not surprising. I think there's definitely a need for something like this and I think it's great, for a small gesture, to have taken off," she said, placing feminine hygiene products on the quickly filling shelves.

Lindsay Brown lives in the area and decided to drop off some food and hygiene supplies. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

With an armful of supplies, Twyla Motkaluk waited for her turn to fill the little cupboard.

"Sometimes things are hard and why not? We have extra," she said.

Another group went to the cupboard a short time later, this time excited about what was inside. Steven Reinheimer grabbed a few packets of porridge and some granola bars and put them in his fiancé's backpack.

"That will get us by another day," he said, making sure not to take too much.

Steven Reinheimer says it isn't always easy to find affordable food and the community cupboard will make a big impact in his life. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

Just over five years ago Reinheimer said his vehicle was hit by a drunk driver and he suffered serious injuries. Before that he was an assistant superintendent at a golf course where he made a good living.

Now, he relies on disability assistance to get by.

"It's hard to actually find places to find food when you are down and out," he said.

While there are a lot of resources, Reinheimer said they aren't always open when people need food or the wait is really long.

"When you need help you need it now," he said.

Reinheimer smiled as he talked about getting back to work and hopefully adding food to the cupboard one day.

"If they were all around the city, honest, people would be surprised about how often they were used," he said.

For now, Hughes said they are working on keeping their little community pantry full of supplies.

"The response has been great. Lots of people have been coming by and taking stuff," he said with a smile.

With files from Jill Coubrough and The Canadian Press

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