by Susan Mae Loseo
“Galing sa Masa, Para sa Masa” is the Sugbo Community Pantry’s call. Inspired by the Maginhawa Community Pantry initiated by entrepreneur Ana Patricia Non on Maginhawa Street in Quezon City, a group of college students from the University of the Philippines Cebu headed by Janneloise Baylon set up the pantry to alleviate food shortage in the community.
Determined to extend help amid the pandemic despite the hurdles of remote learning, Baylon and her fellow students organized, networked, and set up donation channels. And with the support of UP Cebu alumni, friends and other organizations, they got the project off the ground. Baylon elaborates on the experience.
How did the Sugbo Community Pantry come about?
A friend, an alumna from our organization, broached the idea. She asked if we were interested in organizing a community pantry, to which we expressed our willingness. This was a few days after another pantry in Quezon City, the Maharlika Community Pantry, made rounds on social media, and nothing yet has been set up in Cebu.
How do you operate? Are there other services that you provide?
The Sugbo Community Pantry is based in Tipolo, Mandaue City. Most of the Cebu-based members of our organization are from Lapu-Lapu City, including myself. It’s very difficult to hold a daily operation as other pantries have been doing. Instead, what we did was to open donation portals and platforms for the whole week and we only do physical operations every Saturday at the CIC Mandaue back gate. As for other services, I don’t know if it counts as a “service” but we accept all kinds of donations — from clothes to medicines to detergents.
What challenges did you face while setting up the pantry?
Challenges during the first few weeks of operation involved communication with the local government unit (LGU), but we were able to resolve it eventually. It also helped that we were backed by the local tanods. After more than a month of operations, our concern now has shifted to donor fatigue. Fewer donations are coming in — something we, the organizers, understand and are trying to cope with.
What are your plans for the Sugbo Community Pantry?
Moving forward, we are looking towards a more long-term solution of what a community pantry is trying to address, which is hunger. The organizers right now are looking into expanding the pantry into a food bank, which can be sustainably replenished by bigger groups and companies.
As head organizer of the pantry, what are the highlights of your experience?
Empathy, mainly. Sensing and understanding the needs of others. Like when you to see people lining up again despite being there earlier… When this happens, you as an organizer have to understand the reason for their actions more than anything else. You have to listen and truly hear out their needs.
How can the public help sustain the pantry?
For starters, reach out through our Facebook page. We are actively monitoring the page for donations. Any help would go a long way, whether as a volunteer in our operations or as a donor to keep the pantry going.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start their own community pantry?
Persevere. Even if donations lag, or your volunteers don’t show up, remember your reason for doing it in in the first place — it’s for the community.