As cost of living increases, P.E.I. communities have 'got each other's backs'

Johlene Clow, who led the community fridge project in Summerside, P.E.I., says the support has been fantastic. (Tony Davis/CBC - image credit)
Johlene Clow, who led the community fridge project in Summerside, P.E.I., says the support has been fantastic. (Tony Davis/CBC - image credit)

As food costs continue to rise and people struggle to make ends meet, communities on P.E.I. are coming to the aid of their neighbours.

Just over a year after P.E.I.'s first community fridge was set up in Charlottetown, a similar one is now operating in Summerside, and a community pantry is providing food and other essentials to people in the Orwell Cove area.

More are planned for other communities, including Montague.

Johlene Clow, who led the Summerside initiative, said there should be no shame in using the fridge — from people who are unemployed and vulnerable to those with two household incomes and a budget — the price of furnace oil and groceries has an effect on everyone.

"Maybe you ran into an extra bill, your car broke down, so you had to take some money and put it towards that. It's really those type of people, the middle-class working people, that they don't feel they can reach out for help, but they're the ones who definitely need it."

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Anyone is welcome to donate to the fridge, which also includes a pantry for dry goods and household supplies. Clow said the support from the community has been fantastic. About 70 people gathered for the grand opening of the fridge on Saturday on Foundry Street.

"I just want to inspire people and just bring to light the food insecurity. I mean, Summerside's not the only one suffering. It's all across Canada."

The Orwell Cove initiative began with a "fill your boots potato giveaway" that raised about $800 to purchase the first supplies, and people in the community have been keeping it stocked since.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

"There's already been quite a few generous people, some farmers that donated onions and potatoes and turnip," said Randy Visser, whose family initiated the project.

"Somebody put in some Nerds and some Jolly Ranchers and some Jujubes and those kind of things too," he said.

They might add a fridge later, he said, but the pantry is the first step in gauging the needs of the community.

"Sometimes the hardest thing is just to start," said Visser.

Vernon River/Belfast Community Pantry/Facebook
Vernon River/Belfast Community Pantry/Facebook

Tara Reeves, a chef from Summerside, is happy to see leaders step up to address the growing issue of food insecurity.

"It's a reality for a lot of people right now, so I think having the community spirit behind it and just knowing that, you know, we've got each other's backs I think, is huge," she said.