MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health on Monday said there is no need to stop community pantries, which are also good for physical and mental wellness, but guidance from local government units to ensure safety protocols is encouraged.
Community pantries are cropping up across the country as the public finds ways to help the hungry. Volunteers have also been dropping off goods, while residents line up, with physical distancing as seen in photos, for aid.
In a virtual briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the department recognizes the effort of the public to help each other, especially amid the pandemic.
“But maybe the local governments should guide them how to [facilitate] this so they won’t be clustering of people,” she said partly in Filipino.
DZBB reported on Sunday that a resident approached the organizer of the Maginhawa Community Pantry, the first that was set up, complaining of the long line of those seeking goods.
Vergeire said that local officials can guide volunteers how to organize the pantry and those who need help.
“But there is no need to stop it because in my view, these greatly help in the physical wellness and mental wellness of our countrymen. That they see that there are people willing to help is a significant factor in confidence and mental wellness,” she added.
“So I call on our local governments to look into these pantries and give them guidance on how processes may be more organized and we can prevent further infections due to these pantries,” she added.
Community pantry efforts ‘most Christian response’ to pandemic
Caritas Philippines, the social arm of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, also hailed the initiatives to put up community pantries in different communities, especially at a time when “poverty is most visible.”
Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, Caritas Philippines national director, said the emergence of community pantries “is one of the most Christian responses at a time when self-preservation and addiction to power are very eminent.”
Fr. Antonio Labiao, Caritas Philippines’ executive secretary, also recalled that in April 2020—second month into the pandemic lockdown—they launched Caritas Kindness Stations which also empowers the community to “take what you need, spare some for others, and give what you can.” Fifteen provinces now have their own Caritas Kindness Station.
It is a concept from a group of friends in Sorsogon City, Caritas added, that started with P1,500 used to buy canned goods, noodles, crops and half sack of rice. Other donors started to share goods too, and stations multiplied in other areas it added.
Bishop Bagaforo said that with the pandemic, the number of hungry Filipinos may further increase and there is a need for concerted effort to address this. “The organization of the Caritas Kindness Stations, and the community pantries is a manifestation of what we can do to augment the resources of the government to help the most in need families affected by the pandemic,” he added.
“As a people, we are powerful. Hence, we continue to call on all individuals, families and communities to establish these kindness stations or whatever you want to call it. The important thing is, as a Christian nation, we collectively look and reach out for our neighbors,” he also said.
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