The social action arm of the Catholic Church in the Philippines has encouraged the public to support community-based responses to address hunger during the pandemic.
Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, national director of Caritas Philippines, said the setting up of “community pantries” proves that communities can serve as “first responders to address hunger and food insecurities.”
The prelate lauded those behind the initiatives, saying that they “bring out the innate generosity, kindness, and compassion in everyone even at a time when poverty is most visible.”
On April 14, Ann Patricia Non, a 26-year-old resident of Quezon City in the Philippine capital set up a small pantry and called on people to “give according to your capability” and “take what you need.”
Non’s initiative went viral on social media and inspired communities to set up their own pantries.
At least 80 community pantries have already been set up in various places in Metro Manila and other provinces across the country.
Bishop Bagaforo cited the need for a concerted effort to respond to the problem of hunger and food insecurity.
At least four million Filipinos experience involuntary hunger due to lack of food, according to the government-initiated Pilipinas Kontra Gutom.
“With the pandemic, it is expected that the number has increased exponentially,” said Bishop Bagaforo.
The prelate said community pantries are “manifestation(s) of what we can do to augment the resources of the government to help the most in need families affected by the pandemic.”
In April 2020, Caritas Philippines launched “Kindness Stations,” a national program aimed at advocating for community-based response that empowers members of the community to “take what you need, spare some for others, and give what you can.”
The concept started from a group of friends in Sorsogon City during the implementation of the first lockdown to quell the spread of the coronavirus disease.
The Caritas Kindness Station program is now being implemented in more than 15 provinces.
Jing Rey Henderson, communication officer of Caritas Philippines, said the network is integrating community-based vegetable gardens into the Kindness Stations to promote “household-based food security projects.”
Bishop Bagaforo said the most important thing now is for Filipinos to “collectively look and reach out for our neighbors” through initiatives such as the Kindness Station and the community pantry.