The Ryde Community Co-op in Gravenhurst has reopened its self-serve food pantry.

“It’s for everybody,” Volunteer President Nancy Cronin explains. She says to treat it like your own pantry: take what you need from it, then replace it with the same item, or something else. Cronin checks on the pantry every day to drop off items and make sure anything that’s been donated is suitable for others to take.

The pantry is located in front of the co-op’s building at 1624 Barkway Road in Gravenhurst.

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Cronin and the other volunteers with the not-for-profit wanted to do something to help those in need. “We initially started buying grocery cards and people would not self-identify as having needs,” she says. A board member thought of the idea to create the self-service pantry and set it up behind the co-op’s building as a way for people to pick up what they need anonymously. “It worked,” she says. 

When the pantry was first set up, Cronin says it was mostly here that would restock it, but over time word spread and it became more popular. So popular, that she jokes she “voluntold” her husband to create a larger pantry for 2021. He did, and since it’s been put up Cronin says she regularly finds notes from people who have taken something, or dropped items off, thanking the co-op for setting this up or asking others that see their note to pay it forward. 

The pantry doesn’t just have non-perishable food, Cronin stocks it with baking supplies like flour and sugar as well. When she brings items to restock it, she says it will often be based on what she’s been working on in her kitchen at home. She wants to make sure there’s always a different “flavour.”