At the July 13 City of Martensville Committee of the Whole meeting, Dillon Shewchuk, Community Economic Development Manager, spoke to Council regarding a plan to bring the Martensville Free Pantry back to it’s original location within the Civic Centre.
Since created in 2016, the Martensville Free Pantry has been located within the Civic Centre; however, once the COVID pandemic hit, there were concerns over gathering points, touch points and sanitization, and therefore was unable to continue operating within this location. Deseri Adrian, a resident of Martensville, took it upon herself to continue operating the free pantry at her residence so people within the community could still have access to food items regularly.
The City has supported this initiative by providing space for the free pantry and has seen the growth and need within the community rise throughout the years. “there has become a greater need to organize this service to ensure that donated food and items can get to those that need it the most on a regular basis, as well as to manage donations and collections of food and any monetary or gift card donations,” Shewchuk said in his report to Council.
In the past, the Martensville Information & Visitor Centre (MIVC) has had an informal role with the Free Pantry and with plans to move the Free Pantry back to the Civic Centre, would be taking on a larger role with could include items such as pantry activities, donations and working with volunteers, groups and local organizations around donation or fundraising activities.
Earlier this year, Shewchuk spoke with the MIVC and the Free Pantry to discuss joining forces, as well as the City taking on a more active role in ways of providing funding, organization, and potentially bringing on a board member from City Council.
“We are all sort of taking the plunge and seeing if we can get this partnership to work and hopefully take the Free Pantry from something that was maybe a bit informal into something that is a little more organized and deliberate. We have seen more people utilizing the pantry throughout the years and I have learned that there are families that the Free Pantry is a priority for, and others that need it from time to time just to get by,” Shewchuk said.
The City of Martensville included $20,000 in the budget for food bank initiatives, which will be used towards supplies, shelving, fridges, freezers, staffing and other areas needed to ensure food security within the community. Additionally, with the support from the City, Shewchuk hopes that it can further galvanize support for the Free Pantry from the community.
“In doing this, we hope that people will have a better understanding of what they are donating to, and create a better capacity for accepting more than just food items as gift cards and cash which is tougher to accept under the old system. We anticipate that we could potentially see more support coming from the business community as well.”
Currently, the logistics are still being worked out and Shewchuk noted that this is something they do not plan on rushing into to help ensure that everyone is continued to be taken care of during the transition.
PHOTO CAPTION: Prior to COVID, the Martensville Free Pantry was located within the hallway of the Civic Centre.