Dunlop pantry feeds ‘struggling’ locals

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Ali Lubransky-Moy, left, with wife Erica… “You don’t realise until you start something like this, how generous your neighbours and the wider community are,” Ali says. Photo: Nathan Schmidt.

WHEN Erica and Ali Lubransky-Moy opened the Percy Begg Street Pantry outside their Dunlop home late last year, the couple wanted to help those in the community that were struggling. 

The idea came about in December when Ali, 34, was approached by a man at Belconnen mall asking for food.

He looked so defeated and empty inside and yet he was dressed like an ordinary-looking person, she says.

It left her wondering how many people in the community were struggling with food.

The pantry came together relatively quickly after that, Ali says.

Using a disused wine fridge donated by a friend, the couple got to work, giving it a DIY-makeover over a weekend before placing it outside their house on Percy Begg Street.

Each day, they make sure it is filled with a full selection of items that can make a whole meal for a family, such as pasta, pasta sauce and fruit juice. 

There are also other necessities such as soap, pet food and even feed for children to share with ducks in the nearby pond.

Their neighbours were surprised to find out about the existence of a charity pantry on their own street. And the couple created Facebook and Instagram pages to call on the greater community for donations. 

The response has been overwhelming, according to Ali, who, at times says they’ve received so many donations that it’s covered their entire kitchen bench.

“You don’t realise until you start something like this, how generous your neighbours and the wider community are,” she says

When “CityNews” spoke to Ali and Erica, 32, at their home, an inconspicuous Woolworths bag appeared at the door. 

Rummaging through its contents, which included potato chips and confectionery pastries, Ali retrieved a note: “I hope someone can benefit from these items!”

It might seem strange for a bag of foodstuff to arrive at the door but for Ali and Erica it has become part-and-parcel. Photo: Nathan Schmidt

It might seem strange for a bag of foodstuff to arrive at the door without so much as a knock, but for Ali and Erica it has become part-and-parcel. 

For Erica, the community’s generosity has been humbling. She believes that it isn’t the couple’s work that has made the pantry a success and that they’re “really just a conduit for the local community”.

Since opening the pantry, the couple has welcomed anyone to come knock on their door if they need someone to talk to. 

It’s been both a point of pride and concern for Ali who says the stories they’ve heard reflect the pressure on Canberra families. Some lost jobs in the pandemic while others have been struggling for some time, she says. 

“We’ve had so many people say: ‘We never felt we’d need help like this but something’s happened’,” says Ali.

At the end of the day, Ali says the pantry is “about the community feeling good about helping others but it’s also about the community being able to come and be helped”.

“You don’t know what’s ahead of you. It doesn’t take much for the wheels to fall off,” Erica says.

“It could happen to any of us.”

By spreading the message online, the couple hope they will help others to follow in their footsteps and create their own pantry or community project.

“We would encourage anyone to find something and put it in their front garden to help the local community,” she says.

Donations can be made through the Percy Begg Street Pantry Facebook page.

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