Bega's community pantry feeling pinch of panic hoarding

Sapphire Community Pantry in Bega has been providing below-cost groceries to people in need since 2017.

Sapphire Community Pantry's Christine Welsh and Peter Buggy with volunteer Jessica Beasley.

Sapphire Community Pantry's Christine Welsh and Peter Buggy with volunteer Jessica Beasley.

Since the panic shopping response to the COVID-19 pandemic, supplies to the pantry are limited, with its main source, Foodbank, now also suffering from customer hoarding.

"We have put infection control procedures in place and are continuing to trade - we currently have over 1700 members, many of whom depend on us to be able to feed themselves and their kids," Sapphire Community Projects president Christine Welsh said.

"But we are having to buy goods from places other than Foodbank, at higher prices. We are putting these items on our shelves at below cost-recovery prices, which means we are eating into cash reserves."

The not-for-profit charity organisation has costs to meet such as rent, electricity and insurance - the uncertainty of the current situation has prompted a call for assistance.

Sapphire Community Pantry also donate and sell vouchers to other local charities including Katungul, Women's Resource Centre, Vinnie's and Mission. A $12 voucher will buy $40-$60 worth of regular retail-priced grocery shopping.

Fruit and vegetables have been in particularly short supply, with recent devastating bushfires severely affecting local producers who have also previously donated surplus to the pantry.

This is also the case for Eden Community Pantry, a separate organisation, which has been operational for almost a year and felt a similar impact recently.

Eden Community Pantry has also remained open with a constrained mode of operations in line with health precautions since the pandemic fears increased.

The organisation has curtailed other community-building activities it usually coordinates, but on the basis that the pantry provides groceries to people who have been adversely affected by the fires and local economic downturn, will endeavor to keep the pantry running.

Pam Skelton of Eden Community Pantry, said local bakery Wild Rye's had just donated a very generous amount of frozen pies and sausage rolls.

Ms Skelton was proud and pleased there was "no greed, hoarding or disrespect when shoppers accessed the pantry this week - they exercised great tolerance and patience".

"Hoarding behavior severely adversely affects people on low incomes who cant afford to stockpile, including people affected by fires who don't have fridges, freezer or even containers to store food.

"People have been feeling more insecure as they are not sure if the pantry will have reserves to supply their needs."

While anyone is welcome to shop at the pantry, Ms Skelton noted the client base had changed recently, with people from small businesses or in casual employment accessing the shop more regularly.

"Most of our volunteers are retirees, a number of whom are not wanting to put themselves at risk with the pandemic - it was very encouraging this week that a couple of younger people stepped forward and offered to volunteer with us.

"I feel gratitude there is engagement on that level and it would be lovely if more young volunteers became involved as a result of the current situation."

If you are able to make a tax deductible donation to support Sapphire Community Pantry in Bega, visit the Facebook page for details or email info@sapphirecommunity.org.au

If you are able to offer volunteer support to Eden Community Pantry, email pskelton@exemail.com.au.

This story Community pantries need help to help first appeared on Bega District News.

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