Making a difference in Kempsey

Kempsey Community Food Pantry, sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is providing food and other essentials to struggling members of the local community.

The community pantry, situated outside Kempsey Adventist School (KAS) in northern New South Wales, relies on Foodbank for its supplies, allowing them to provide free, locally sourced produce as well as bread and discounted supermarket products.  

The pantry is a not-for-profit initiative that aims to help community members and service Centrelink recipients. They hope to lessen the financial burdens on individuals and families during unprecedented times.

Recently appointed Phil and Kathy have taken over from Ron and Elsie in running the pantry. With the help of 28 volunteers, the pantry welcomed 65 visitors on April 10.

“Foodbank gets all the food in from all their suppliers, the major companies . . . we order from them every week and get the orders in on Tuesdays,” Phil said. “We also talk to local produce farmers and local people who just grow in their backyards, so they bring in pumpkins and all sorts of produce.”

Phil said anyone who is on Centrelink payments, or the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) or just finding it tough is welcome. The pantry also aspires to support and connect to community members who are struggling, feel neglected and are lonely.

“We assess each case as it is—some we might help more ongoing than others, but we try and get them on their feet and to try and take some responsibility as well where they can,” Phil said.

The food pantry also provides emergency support for people affected by floods or fires. Emergency kits packed with toiletries and essentials have been prepared for community members and are ready to be handed out in the case of a natural disaster, along with food if necessary. The pantry has also recently purchased a new mobile kitchen to be used in the case of emergencies.

While the food pantry operates separately from the church, members are actively looking out for people who might need help.

“We want to try and offer support to people, not necessarily financial or food, it may just be a listening ear,” Phil explained.

One of the first volunteers, Heather, has been with the pantry since the beginning. She explained how relationships have developed between the volunteers and community members.

“We meet a lot of people who come in and we talk to them and help them, and we smile, and we just love working here,” Heather said. “Everyone is lovely.”

Kempsey Community Food Pantry recently celebrated its three-year anniversary.

— Kiera Bridcutt