The man who set up two food pantries in Fairview is hoping to expand their reach after seeing constant demand over the last three months.
David Aalders was born and raised in the Halifax community. He's frequently involved in community events, and when he saw how the pandemic was affecting the area last year, he figured he needed to do more.
He initially wanted to set up a little free library, but after seeing a CBC report about community pantries in Cape Breton, he knew that would be the ideal project for Fairview.
"I see it from living in Fairview that there's lots of folks who are struggling and a fair degree of hidden poverty," Aalders said.
He posted his plan on social media and Nicole Mosher got on board.
"There's been times when I've been in a situation where I've thought heck, I could use a bit of help right now," said Mosher, a single mother of two. "I think it's a simple thing we can do to help the people in our community."
Mosher applied for a grant from the YMCA, and in the spring, they received $500 to buy two outdoor weatherproof cupboards.
They asked the Al-Barakah mosque and the Fairview Resource Centre if the pantries could be set up on their properties. The two organizations agreed, and the volunteers filled the shelves with food for the first time in March.
The cupboards are outside and never locked, so people have access to food 24 hours a day.
Aalders says once word got out, the shelves started emptying.
"I'd put items in the pantry on say, a Monday and I'd come back on a Wednesday on my way home and it would be bone dry. There's definitely a significant need in the community."
Now, people are putting donations on the shelves themselves, and they're sending money to Aalders and Mosher to buy extra supplies. Aalders drops by several times a week to make sure both cupboards are stocked.
"People drop off home preserves, jams, I think there's pickles too," said Aalders. "I'm not at all surprised in a way that the demand has been there."
Aalders used a $1,000 donation from the Kin Club of Halifax to buy staples, making sure things like pasta and soup are always available.
He says he's also very aware of Fairview's diverse community. He's started shopping at some of the international grocery stores in the area to provide foods from other cultures.
"I'm always learning," he said of the different things that people need.
Mosher says she's also thinking beyond food. Someone left crayons and colouring books on the shelves one day.
"Period poverty is a big deal," she said. "I've certainly made an effort to buy pads and tampons to make sure that they're there."
Mosher and Aalders both say they're not trying to compete with the food bank, but compliment it.
"The food cupboards aren't supposed to feed a family for a month. It's supposed to take what you need, grab what you need for the next couple days."
While the initial launch has been successful, Aalders is hoping this isn't just a novelty and that people continue to donate to the project. He plans to add at least one more location in the community, to make sure everyone has access to items.
He believes the need will still exist in Fairview long after the pandemic is over.
So far, he says, no one has taken advantage of the project, which is built entirely on the honour system.
"We're not here to police people's actions."
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