The Common Cupboard is an outdoor community fridge, freezer, and pantry located in the neighbourhood of Bowness. It was originally built in the autumn of 2021 with the support of the Bowness Community Association and Bowwest Community Resource Centre. The purpose of the Common Cupboard is to provide free healthy food and toiletries to anyone who may need it within Bowness and the surrounding area. It is accessible 24/7, with the motto “take what you need, leave what you can ”. This serves to help our low income neighbours and people who have fallen on hard times in the last few years due to the pandemic.
The fridge and pantry is stocked by individual community members, monetary donations to purchase groceries by volunteers (currently once per week), and volunteers picking up rescued food (leftovers) from surrounding businesses. Additional volunteers clean the space 4 times per week, ensuring the food is not expired or damaged, and ensuring that the space is clean overall. To date, this initiative has been quite successful in garnering the support of the community, building a few partnerships with businesses to rescue food, and gaining donations from community members (both internal to congregation and from the general community). Volunteers, donors, and recipients are from the larger community, making this an initiative focused on the whole community of Bowness. The need is great and the fridge empties daily.
The Common Cupboard aims to build community, connecting donors, recipients, and volunteers. The initial goal is to help meet the basic need of food security. While doing so, we are partnering with local businesses to reduce food waste by rescuing their leftovers that are still good for consumption. We hope to hire a part-time staff to sustain the project as we build partnerships and community engagement. Currently, interactions between volunteers and recipients suggest that this approach to food security offers dignity, as recipients share that they give when they can and they take when they have to. There is a shared pride in the project and a sense that the whole community is involved to help each other. The shelter is housed on the property of the Awaken Church, connected to a community garden that is accessed by community members not otherwise involved in the church. It is a safe, accessible space for the wider community. The core values of the garden include community building and food security, which aligns nicely with the Common Cupboard project. Some of the produce from the community garden lands in the fridge and therefore with neighbours in need of nutritious food.
While this project has seen successes in its first 6 months, there is a great need to continue to grow the sustainability of the project to ensure that it can be a resource in the community of Bowness into the future. The building costs went above budget last year due to the rising market cost of supplies. There are maintenance needs for the shelter to ensure sustainability, such as better cupboard doors, heating, and sealing. In addition, the project can hire a part-time staff to develop the partner network and oversee volunteers. Currently, we know that the fridge is supplied 12 to 16 times per week through existing partnerships. We have observed that the items are generally cleaned out within a few hours. It therefore often sits empty. With a dedicated staff to continue to build our capacity, we hope to have the fridge full more consistently so that it can be a reliable resource for our neighbours in Bowness.
The Common Cupboard is a community initiative, managed by a few volunteer co-organizers who are passionate about food security in Bowness. Donated money would enable us to hire a person part-time to continue to develop community partnerships, donor relations, volunteer management, and perform administrative tasks. It would aid in maintenance and improvements of the Common Cupboard structure and signage. We would also like to host community connection events for all who are involved or access the Common Cupboard (recipients, donors, and volunteers), to create opportunities to build community, tackle isolation, and connect people with greater support. Greater support could include food delivery to those with mobility barriers especially during the cold winter months, or support with connecting with other community organizations.