Pantry program growing goodness in Victoria’s Oaklands neighbourhood

Oaklands Community Association pantry founder Karin Zylstra and daughter Yisa pause amidst the pantry offerings. The pay-what-you-can program has been growing in recent months as people learn more about its fresh offerings and welcoming environment. (Photo by Sandy Yong/courtesy OCA)Oaklands Community Association pantry founder Karin Zylstra and daughter Yisa pause amidst the pantry offerings. The pay-what-you-can program has been growing in recent months as people learn more about its fresh offerings and welcoming environment. (Photo by Sandy Yong/courtesy OCA)
Volunteer Teresa Shook holds a massive locally grown potato at the Oaklands Community Association pantry in Victoria. (Photo by Sandy Yong/courtesy OCA)Volunteer Teresa Shook holds a massive locally grown potato at the Oaklands Community Association pantry in Victoria. (Photo by Sandy Yong/courtesy OCA)
Volunteer Barbara Coates awaits clients at the Oaklands Community Association pantry in Victoria. (Photo by Sandy Yong/courtesy OCA)Volunteer Barbara Coates awaits clients at the Oaklands Community Association pantry in Victoria. (Photo by Sandy Yong/courtesy OCA)
Volunteer Priscilla Lapointe arranges a box at the Oaklands Community Association pantry in Victoria. (Photo by Sandy Yong/courtesy OCA)Volunteer Priscilla Lapointe arranges a box at the Oaklands Community Association pantry in Victoria. (Photo by Sandy Yong/courtesy OCA)
Another load of fresh produce arrives for distribution at the Oaklands Community Association’s pantry. (Photo by Ashley Chun/OCA)Another load of fresh produce arrives for distribution at the Oaklands Community Association’s pantry. (Photo by Ashley Chun/OCA)

Making healthy food more readily available is an idea being welcomed wholeheartedly in Victoria’s Oaklands community.

Having re-tallied its totals for 2021, the Oaklands Community Association diverted roughly $110,000 worth of healthy food from the landfill and distributed it to families in need in the community.

Ashley Chun, the association’s volunteer and communications coordinator, took on overseeing the pantry program last year.

Having served more than 4,200 people in and around the Oaklands neighbourhood in 2021, the pay-what-you-can service continues to reach further into the community, she said.

Chun and the enthusiastic team of volunteers who help with its operation are working hard to ensure people don’t feel a sense of shame or embarrassment for needing the pantry’s services.

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Among the comments Chun has heard from users of the pantry service are that they appreciate the open and welcoming environment, it reduces the financial stress of providing food for their family, and they like being introduced to the produce of local farmers.

The pantry partners with the Food Share Network, South Island Farm Hub and the Red Cedar Cafe, along with accepting community donations. Red Cedar, located in Paul’s Motor Inn on Douglas Street, rents out fridge space to the OCA and volunteers do morning pickups to have the food ready for clients.

Unlike a hamper system where every household receives a similarly stocked box of food, Oaklands pantry clients pick and choose only the items they want or need. Not only does the system reduce wastage, Chun said, it gives people more agency and independence.

An appointment system was set up to ease logistics and make the pantry more fair and equal, Chun said. Call 250-370-9101 to book a time and for more information on the pantry program and other services, visit oaklands.life/oaklands-food-services.

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