Sydney’s Cumberland community food pantry sets a good example

Donations collected at Karabi Community and Development Services

Contributed by Joe Montero

Cumberland Council in Western Sydney has set an example by setting up its own community pantry. Collections will be collected from donors and distributed out of centres at Wentworthville and Auburn in a 12-month trial.

This is a response to rapidly rising food prices that are making life difficult for local residents. The man who first proposed the community pantry, Deputy Mayor Suman Saha said, “When I go to a shopping centre, [the price of] what goes into the shopping trolley changes all the time,”

Cr Sha notes that many had lost work during the pandemic and haven’t found full time work yet. Inflation has hit 7.3 percent according to the Australian Bureaux of Statistics (ABS) and is set to go higher. Vegetables have risen 16.2 percent, dairy products by 12.1 percent, and meat by 7.3 percent. Home buyers are suffering from rising interest rates and rents continue to go up. This is topped by the escalating price of fuel and electricity.

Amar Singh the President of Turbans 4 Australia lending a hand to the food pantry

The council has agreed to collect donations.

Local community action to help those in need is the best way to tackle the impact of the rising cost of living. By encouraging involvement and building relationships, communities can learn to work together and lift everyone.

In the Cumberland example, Sikh charity Turbans 4 Australia and Karabi Community Development Services have become involved by providing places in which to operate.

The idea of a community pantry is not new to Australia. There have been and are other examples. But they have been too few. Communities face new challenges today. Dipping living standards bring a new urgency to finding answers.

It will be great if Cumberland can achieve the widespread participation of its community. Many can donate time and items. Even those getting help can be encouraged to help others. This would go much further than just being a charity, and towards realising the importance of helping each other t meet the challenges we face together.

There is tremendous potential in this. It brings opportunities to empower communities, by providing them with control over their affairs. Initiatives like community pantries can contribute to local collective wellbeing, which is critical to building neighbourhoods and fostering a sense of obligation to each other, breaking down barriers between people, and creating a sense of belonging.

In a sense, this is also building a local economy. Lifting the community is good for local business, creates jobs, and other opportunities.

Having the support of the local council is a great boost. Even better if reasonable financial support could be provided by state and federal governments. But they should never be in control. Businesses should be encouraged to contribute according to their capability.

A food pantry should exist in every city, suburb, and town across Australia.

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