Volunteers frustrated to see community food pantries used as rubbish bins

A lot of work goes into taking care of the community food pantries in neighbourhoods across Christchurch.

The pantries allow residents to take free food items when they need them or leave food for others when they have it to spare.

They're often set up in front of the volunteers' homes. But some are fed up with finding non-food items and rubbish left in the pantries and all over their properties.

Chey Wessinger manages the Bampton St pantry in Burwood and, over the last few years, has found everything from broken TVs and beds to CDs and lots of clothes dumped around it.

"People don't want all of that stuff, so it ends up getting rained on, or whatever, and it's our job to dispose of everyone else's rubbish."

She said there's a charity clothing bin just down the road and donation centres all over the city for unwanted items.

Wessinger regularly disposes of the rubbish left on her lawn and, in some cases, she even finds broken items and squished fruit that has been thrown around.

The Bampton St community pantry. Photo: Emily O'Hagan
The Bampton St community pantry. Photo: Emily O'Hagan
She said the pantry isn't designed to take items other than food, because it can't withstand different weather conditions.

"It's nice to see people are able to get what they need from here.

"But when people are causing damage or leaving rubbish, then it's a little bit frustrating."

The food pantries are designed for non-perishables with long lives such as tinned and packaged food.

However, fresh fruit and vegetables are also allowed.

Volunteers monitor the food that goes into the pantry and remove food that won't last.

Wessinger believes food pantries are an asset to the community, helping people who are struggling.

"Especially with the cost of living, it's nice for us who can help others to be able to."

She still enjoys managing their community pantry, but is keen to promote better awareness around where they are and how they should be used.

- By Emily O'Hagan, made with the support of NZ On Air