When Patricia Non first founded the first community pantry last year in her neighborhood of Maginhawa in Teacher’s Village, Quezon City, it was a small bamboo cart that held a set of canned goods, some rice, vegetables, and other essentials such as face masks and vitamins. Above it, a sign read in Filipino, “Give what you can, take what you need.”
Non’s initiative inspired over 300 community pantries that have since popped up across the country, addressing food insecurity as communities struggled to provide for their basic needs amid strict mobility restrictions, job losses, and rising prices. People donate whatever resources — from small quantities by individuals to bulk donations from groups — they have so that others may benefit.
On Wednesday, the United States Embassy presented Non with the Ambassador’s Woman of Courage Award for starting the country’s first community pantry.
“Empowered and courageous women can change the world for the better. I presented the Ambassador’s Woman of Courage Award to Ana Patricia Non for her community pantry initiative that inspired Filipinos to combine resources and help one another during the COVID-19 pandemic,” US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Heather Variava wrote on Twitter.
Non’s initiative highlighted how many Filipinos were in need of a helping hand, as well as the lack of government aid at a time when the government had imposed quarantine restrictions to curb the rising cases of COVID-19.
While Non received the support of the Quezon City government and was praised here and abroad for the movement she started, not all shared this sentiment: Non’s food pantry movement had been the target of a red-tagging scheme in which she and other food pantry organizers were branded as communist recruiters, forcing them to halt operations until their safety could be ensured.
In May last year, the Philippine National Police apologized for what they called the “perceived profiling” of Non and other organizers by police personnel.