Walking into Beaudesert Early Years Centre and Kindergarten, you might be surprised to find an assortment of canned goods, clothing, books and toys in your path.
The community pantry initiative has been running at the service for many years to support those in need.
Like many early childhood and education care services across the state, Beaudesert Early Years Centre and Kindergarten has a strong community connection which is strengthened by the creation of the pantry (Quality area 6 – Collaborative partnerships with families and communities).
Manager Marisa Phillips said the community pantry started out as a clothing and toy swap month and has grown from there.
'The pantry is open to be accessed by anyone who visits our programs at the Early Years Centre or co-located kindergarten, they do not have to be a client or family enrolled into our service, it is open to the community,' Marisa said.
'The pantry is stocked regularly and voluntarily by families who access our programs as well as from food hampers from the service and other donations from anyone who wishes.'
Marisa said the pantry was open year-round and supported many families in the community in times of most need.
'The community pantry is something that families can access anonymously if they wish or they can have a conversation with the team while they are there accessing the pantry – it is completely up to them,' Marisa said.
'The most popular items in the pantry are basic food items – cereals, baby food purees and staples for meal bases like sauces.
Nappies and children’s clothing and toys are also popular.
Families can often access things for their children that would be a treat that they may not be able to access otherwise,' Marisa said.
'Varying the position of the community pantry allowed people to access it close to staff or further away from the office doorway which often made families more comfortable accessing the service.
Those who are feeling a little unsure or worried about taking items sometimes feel more comfortable when they can just pick things up without worrying about having to explain or tell their story if they don’t want to,' Marisa said.
Marisa said some families enjoyed having conversations with staff about what they were ‘shopping’ for at the pantry and help with choosing items or with ideas on how to use the food items if they are unsure (simple recipes).
'Where possible, services should call on the wider community for support – this can help to add variety to the pantry for families as well as increase the sense of community.'
Quality Area 6 – Collaborative partnerships with families and communities