A small coastal community has been praised for its “amazing” solution to the cost of living crisis that’s helped to make sure all residents have enough to eat.
The community of Ulladulla, a costal town 230 kilometres south of Sydney, has rallied around its Little Free Food Pantry, a small outdoor cupboard that’s stocked with basic grocery staples including eggs, bread and fresh produce.
Written across the top of the pantry is the touching motto: “Take what you need, give what you can.”
Ulladulla’s Little Free Food Pantry was set up outside the local scout hall by resident Coralie Smith and her mum, Melissa, who wanted to make sure all Ulladulla families had food on the table.
The pantry also helps to reduce food waste, since residents and local supermarkets donate items they’re not going to use, rediverting them to people who may otherwise go without.
Much of the food is donated by the local Coles store, which fills the pantry daily with a range of baked items, meat and fresh produce. Woolworths also offers a weekly grocery haul, which often includes several pallets of food and products, and the pantry is regularly topped up by generous locals.
One local woman, Michelle, has been using the service for almost three months. For her, it meant the difference between having just one meal a day and having more to eat.
“I’m working three jobs because of the high interest rates and the cost of living,” Michelle told Yahoo.
“When I collected my first hamper all I could do is cry … Now, I’m definitely eating more and am able to keep up with my mortgage and bills.”
Michelle is one of more than 1600 people who follow the Little Free Food Pantry Facebook group, where organisers share when the pantry has been restocked and find people who are struggling to buy essential items.
Photos of the pantry shared in the group show it brimming with a range of grocery items, including fresh food, pantry staples and toiletries. The products that are available change each time the pantry is restocked, but often include baked goods and fresh produce that would otherwise be thrown out.
One recent, huge haul provided by local residents, Coles and Woolworths showed a wealth of fresh fruit and veggies, tea bags, two-minute noodles, a chocolate cake, sausages, free-range chicken, soft drinks, hair conditioner and canned goods.
Another recent restock even included a fresh bouquet of lilies.
Commenters in the group often sing praise for the thoughtful initiative.
“Thank you (organiser) Melissa Johnson for the amazing work you do,” one member recently wrote.
Another anonymous participant shared how they had been hesitant to ask for help with groceries, but were overwhelmed by the positive response when they did.
“I have been watching this amazing little project from the start and I have seen all the good it has done for people before me,” the recipient wrote.
“I have hesitated for weeks now to reach out as we, like so many others, are struggling to make ends meet but I finally pushed aside my pride and asked for help. Melissa made me feel so comfortable in what I thought would be a very uncomfortable conversation and without hesitation or judgement, Melissa straight away offered to help and I instantly felt some relief.
The recipient urged others in need not to hesitate to reach out, saying: “There is no judgement, no criteria and no one is excluded from this. From the bottom of my very full heart, thank you.”
Another anonymous poster said their “jaw was once again left on the floor after experiencing such generosity.”
“A huge, huge thank you to all of the donors and the wonderful team behind the Little Free Food Pantry,” they wrote.
“It’s truly exceptional what you’re doing and it’s hard to express how much relief it offers when you know that groceries are not an expense of concern for the next few weeks. We’re incredibly grateful!”