Addi Road Food Pantry Marrickville is open again. It’s a warm, drizzly day in Sydney, one of those slow-down-even-if-you-want-to-go-fast days. Reflective time to take in the fact one year has passed and a new one is really here to stay a while.
What might that mean? Change is gonna come? Or business as usual, last year’s struggles and issues on the repeat button? It will take more than neat buzzwords like ‘resilience’ to get through. It will take substantial community support, engagement that grounds people in a few certainties, and reminders they are not alone in the struggle.
Customers take shelter on rows of plastic seats beneath a narrow verandah outside the Addi Road Food Pantry; more are standing on the road accepting the drizzle; others gather beneath a big tree immediately opposite the main entrance that children like to climb. You get that funny feeling of solidarity and loneliness, of need and play as everyone comes together, less of a shopping venture than something basic and shared, a way to stay human and connected.
In all, there are maybe thirty or so people inside the Food Pantry. Almost forty outside, waiting, chatting to one another or enjoying their own quiet. Steady as she goes. For $5 you can usually score about $20 worth of groceries, choosing from the shelves, fridges and freezers. Once you’ve spent your $5 you also qualify for free bread and a selection of free fruit and vegetables.
The operating structure means that people get whatever they like along with a guarantee of nutritional extras and staples like bread.
Our Addi Road volunteers keep the place humming. Our donors supply us with food, much of it rescued by us to prevent it from going into landfill and turning into greenhouse gases. Most of the people who shop at our pantry take some pride in helping us to do the right thing for the environment.
Maybe that’s another way of saying coming here is not just some pity-party or charity act. Without making it sound too grand, you get a real sense of a community helping us as much as we help them, a true coming together that involves mutual action. People will feed themselves and their friends and their families. The chain reaction helps in other ways too, from food on a table to boosting mental health and, yes, resilience in a way that has warmth and substance.
We’ve noticed a shift in demographics over the last year. Those coming to shop at the Addi Road Food Pantry include not only the unemployed, people battling rent hikes, students, single-parent families, migrant groups and refugees isolated and needing support; there are many others who’ve now hit major snags with mortgage repayments and reductions in income, people who appear comfortable but are feeling the edge of fragmenting middle class life as their economic conditions become brittle and difficult.
Sitting outside Addi Road Food Pantry there is some respite in people knowing they can guarantee a few meals for themselves and those they love. Inside, you can smell fresh paint and plaster; a wall has been knocked out to create a larger space to cope with the growing demand. It’s kinda busy and we figure things will stay that way.
Regular shoppers are familiar with one another and the volunteers who serve them. Others who come-and-go get a sense of the community bonding even when things are tough. You’re not alone here.
HOURS: Addi Road Food Pantry Marrickville is open 12-4pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. We extend our hours on Wednesday, opening 12-7pm for our ‘Wednesday Night Lights’ partnership with Street Side Medics and Marrickville Legal Centre, providing free medical assistance and legal advice along with free hot meals on that evening – as well as our usual shopping at the Addi Road Food Pantry.