Sam’s helping hand

IT’S been open for just three days, but Sam Sayers can see the planning has paid off.

More than 230 people from around the Derwent Valley have already taken home what they need to feed their families for the next few days.

This is the new Pantry
on New Norfolk’s Circle Street, open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 10am until 4pm.

“The idea is simple,” says the mother of five.

“Local families can pick up a full food hamper from us for $20. That’s multiple breakfasts, lunches, dinner and snacks for those who need them.”

A cost comparison puts the value of the groceries in Sam’s hampers at more than $114 at regular supermarket prices.

Sam admits getting to this point required a lot of work.

“Eighteen months with lawyers and accountants,” she says, “understanding the logistics, the operations of not-for-profits, the constitutional requirements for registered charities …”

The main supplier is Food Bank, a nationwide organisation considered ‘the pantry to the charity sector,’ putting surplus food and groceries into the hands of people in need.

Sam’s enterprise, officially It’s Our Community-Pantry Inc., is the latest in a list of some 2600 groups providing close to 90 million meals across the country every year.

The work includes assisting with school meals via the local Breakfast Club and Fruit Break programs.

“Fruit,” she tells me, “because of its limited life, is hard to keep up with.”

The hampers come prepacked by the Food Bank in Derwent Park, she says. “In addition, the food diversion program run by Woolworths supermarkets makes a significant contribution, too.”

Deliveries come in on Mondays, which means the Pantry opens its doors on Tuesdays and Fridays. The hours are also timed around family payments, which arrive on Mondays, and pensions on Thursdays.

She’s quick to apportion credit to Your Church that provides in-kind hiring of the building on Circle Street, to the Salvos and the Derwent Valley Community House who help with distribution, and to Woollies and food-share groups like Loaves and Fishes.

“We’re a not-for-profit, with an all-volunteer crew,” Sam adds. “We take care
of the overheads and keep the lights on. Beyond that, everything that comes in goes back into securing food for our customers.”

Where did his come from, this idea of a community food pantry? “Let’s just say I grew up a little rougher than most people,” she reflects.

What goes unsaid is the fact she knows from personal experience what it’s like to not be able to put food on the table.

Trained as a nurse and working in the community and social services sector, in the weeks before opening, Sam managed to garner two grants, including $3300 from the Derwent Valley Council.

She then wrangled in-kind contributions from across the Valley. “The customer is not required to produce a concession card or show they’re somehow ‘deserving’ of what’s provided,” she says.

“It’s one hamper per household, and we just ask that you show us you’re from this community.”