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N.B. community pantry brings residents together to help people with food insecurity

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With food insecurity more prevalent than ever, Two Rivers Pastoral Charge has been doing their part to help out in their community.

First started in late 2022, the Pastoral Charge has set up a community food pantry at each of the three churches they oversee in southern New Brunswick. One is the Westfield United Church in Grand Bay-Westfield, another is at Long Reach United Church in Long Reach, and the third is located in Summerville at the Bayswater-Summerville United Church.

The community pantries are better known as Ida’s Cupboards.

“The initiative came from Ida Macpherson, who was the chair of our outreach committee,” says Kate Jones, who is the minister at Two Rivers Pastoral Charge. “We came across an article talking about these little free food pantries and we asked ourselves, ‘Do our communities need something like this?’ and we decided, yes, they did.”

Sadly, Ida passed away before the project was completed, but the decision was made to complete it in her honour.

Since their inception, Ida’s Cupboards have helped countless residents in the community. Residents can take what they need, and leave what they can.

“Sometimes within the course of a day the cupboard will be full and empty several times,” says Jones. “Which gives us an idea of how many hungry people there are in our community at the moment.”

Ida's Cupboard at the Westfield United Church in Grand Bay-Westfield, N.B., is pictured. (Source: Avery MacRae/CTV News Atlantic)

While the pantries are overseen by the Pastoral Charge, the cupboard at the Westfield United Church has seen the entire community of Grand Bay-Westfield chip in with donations to help those in need.

Elaine Elkin is the administrator at the Westfield United Church, and has noticed everyone is fair about what they take to ensure no one has to go hungry.

“They are selective about what they take, they don’t just come in and clear it all out and take everything,” Elkin says. “They are really very good and the need is great, much greater than anybody knows.”

“It’s wonderful,” says community resident Rae Wallace, who dropped off some dish soap Wednesday. “(Ida’s) that type of person. Ida and her husband, they were very much concerned with the community and the people in it.”

The entire community supporting the Grand Bay-Westfield cupboard is beyond what Jones could have ever imagined.

“It’s incredible to witness,” says Jones. “There is a community Facebook group for Grand Bay-Westfield and I will often see posts from people with no connection to the church but will post they have left food in Ida’s Cupboard but it seems pretty empty, and within a couple of hours the entire pantry will be filled by people in the community.”

Starting this year, the pantry will also have fresh produce available. The new Harvest Garden is located next door to Ida’s Cupboard at the Westfield United Church with fresh fruits and vegetables growing for anyone who needs them.

“We know there are people not just in the church but in the community who want to be able to help, want something to do to help, but it has grown far beyond what we dreamed two years ago,” admits Jones on the addition of the garden.

The Harvest Garden next to Ida's Cupboard in Grand Bay-Westfield, N.B. (Source: Avery MacRae/CTV News Atlantic)

On Monday night at 6:30 p.m., the new community garden will hold a grand opening as a way to thank all those in the community who made the initiative a reality.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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