South Dundas resident Julie Gour has put a unique idea to good use. She has set up a Take and Give Pantry that allows people to drop off food donations and take food when needed. The Pantry is similar in concept to a “little free library”, but it is anything but little. It is set up at 4165 County Road 31 in Williamsburg and is accessible by all those in the local area.
Julie explained that this is her first year running such an idea. Her inspiration for the idea came from seeing a similar set up in Ottawa in a social media post. She enlisted the help of Iroquois-based custom woodworker Denis Fawcett to build the Pantry, which was completed two weeks ago.
“People can show up anytime to drop off food, and pick up even if they’re not looking for anything and just want to donate,” said Julie. She explained that the concept goes far beyond what it seems, and is tied to something called the Seed It Initiative.
“Basically, they want people to start planting gardens and when they have excess amounts of vegetables, they donate it to the neighborhood food banks,” Julie explained. “The way they’re doing this is that every May they give away $50 vouchers for nurseries that are affiliated with the program, and you can go and pick up seeds, vegetable plants, fruit plants, and more.”
Julie started participating in this a few years ago, which is when she began giving away excess produce to those in need. Her garden is now close to 100 feet long by 60 feet wide. With the amount of vegetables being produced, having a stand set up to give the produce away made sense, which snowballed into the idea to include other food items as well.
“We have roughly over 100 cucumber plants, about 50 tomato plants, potatoes, onions, corn, celery, leeks, zucchini, roughly 60 pepper plants, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, beans, peas, beets, pumpkin, watermelon, radish, lettuce, and spinach,” said Julie. “On top of that, we also started planting an orchard which has apple trees, pears, prunes, cherries, we’re on the hunt for peach trees and we have crab apple trees also. This year, somebody donated sap from maple trees, so we transformed it and made maple syrup – right now we’re looking for beehives.”
Julie is the only one taking care of the massive garden. She is managing, and will continue watering and caring for it as long as a drought does not occur, but she would appreciate any help that people can provide, including help with weeding.
“People are actually responding well to it,” Julie added. “People have been dropping off stuff daily and picking up stuff. I’m just trying to get the word out to surrounding communities.” Julie put up $600 of her own money to build the Pantry, so she wants to make sure that people get value from it.
People who want to contribute can drop off empty egg cartons and empty mason jars that they’re not using. They can be used for canning a lot of the produce that will be coming out of the garden, with the intention of putting the canned food in the Pantry. “We have little hooks on the top of the pantry that I installed, and those are going to be used to hang dried herbs because I have a massive herb garden as well,” said Julie. “We also have Grandma’s Garden that is located in Williamsburg that has donated over 100 vegetable plants that we just planted in the past two days in the garden.”
Need a food item, want to make a donation or lend a helping hand? Stop by the Take and Give Pantry at 4165 County Road 31 in Williamsburg!