Free pantry fights off hunger

Tristan WheelerManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Lani Carroll-Newton and Jan Carroll curate the Little Free Pantry.
Camera IconLani Carroll-Newton and Jan Carroll curate the Little Free Pantry. Credit: Manjimup-Bridgetown Times

A mother-daughter team has established a community pantry to fight hunger in Bridgetown.

Bridgetown’s Jan Carroll and Lani Carroll-Newton established the Little Free Pantry in August as a means of addressing a need in the community.

“A lady in IGA couldn’t afford the basics, and (I) heard her story and said I'm going to set this up tomorrow,” Lani said.

The idea for the pantry is to stock ingredients that can be used to make a meal — including staples such as bread, pasta and rice — as well as canned meals.

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What started as a small cupboard on the outside of Jan’s shop —the Botanical Vault — quickly expanded due to popular demand.

“I had 10 (people) the other day, in one day,” Jan said. “I would say at least up to 20 people are using it, maybe more.”

They were provided with a big cupboard and paint by the community — as well as a set of doors built by Bridgetown Men’s Shed’s David Barrett — to keep wildlife out of the pantry.

“We’ve had great community response in every way,” Lani said.

All of the pantry’s provisions are donated or paid for with cash donations.

“When it’s (the pantry ) getting low, I just put on Facebook that we are in need and everyone comes to the party, which is fantastic,” Jan said.

“We look at ourselves as the curators and caretakers of the pantry, the community are the people actually donating the food and the monetary donations.”

As part of the pantry’s work in 2019, they provided 14 Christmas hampers to self-nominated residents in need.

Former recipients of supplies from the pantry have also begun to donate back to the pantry.

“ We’ve got people saying I’ve been in that situation myself and I want to give back now,” Jan said.

The initiative has also received support from visitors to the town. “We’ve had people who have visited the town from Perth and elsewhere (who) have asked about the little free pantry and (have) gone up to IGA and bought a heap of stuff down for the pantry, and I think that is absolutely beautiful,” Jan said.

Plans for 2020 include the provision of emergency meals — which will require a freezer to keep — for traumatic situations.

Jan encouraged anyone in need to come and see her at the Botanical Vault.

“I’ve actually told people if you’re embarrassed, just come inside and tell me,” she said

“I will get a bag, I will put things in it for you, and when I bring it in and when you leave people will just think you’ve been to IGA.”

Since moving to Bridgetown three years ago both Jan and Lani have been involved in a number of community projects and other charity work.

Currently they are collecting donations and goods for wildlife affected by bushfires in the Eastern States.

The Botanical Vault also serves as a recycling hub for smaller items, such as ring pulls, bread tags and bottle tops.

Both Jan and Lani emphasised the importance of recognising need in the community.

“We have people say we don't have people in need in Bridgetown, we don’t have homeless people in Bridgetown,” Lani said.

“That is the most detrimental thing, to be closed off and ignorant to it. When there is ignorance there is no support.”

Donations can be placed straight into the Little Free Pantry located at the Botanical Vault in Bridgetown.

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